“Like a tornado” a funeral sermon for Barbara Martin, 2/06/2019

Barbara had the uncanny ability to walk into a room as if a tornado had just swept through it.

Maybe it was because her hair always looked like she just walked through a windstorm, even though she was a very elegant and well-put together person. It was that displacement that demanded attention.

Maybe it was her constant line of questioning. She was an inquisitive soul, but with an agenda. I’ve never met a person that could sit through an hour of discussion about one thing and then ask a question completely unrelated to anything anyone was talking about. She would bide her time, wait patiently until everyone was done, and then she would strike with a series of intelligent queries that weighed on her mind and on her heart. It wasn’t just that she was curious. She was seeking. Searching and longing as if everything depended on it. We could all learn something from Barbara when it comes to taking your faith (or your search for faith) seriously.

Maybe it was her cynicism. One of the things that constantly made me feel sorry for Barbara was her outlook that the world was out to get her somehow. That people were trying to take something from her or get the better of her, that she got a raw deal or was going to be taken advantage of. And that is not that people were not trying to connect with her or befriend her or even love her. But that too was like a storm that struck, and the people here that really cared for her and loved her even despite her often-negative view of the world was also undeniable.

Barbara was relentless.

She was a brilliant, accomplished, resourceful, inquisitive, seeking, restless soul. She was also lost, hurting, lonely, troubled, and abrasive, who never accepted things blindly or at face value. She was also a beloved child of God, that many of you (and me) kept trying to convince her was the truth about who she was, who she is and who she would always be.

Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

This promise comes in the middle of Matthew’s Gospel, right after confronting the local cities around Galilee for their inability to repent – that is to “turn around” and see what it is Jesus was doing among them – eating and drinking with all the wrong people (you know, the ones who often want something from you); forgiving sins (especially the bad ones); and proclaiming the kingdom of God (not some destructive future day of God’s judgment, but God breaking into our lives here and now). It was Jesus’ unconditional love for others, whoever they were or whatever it was they were going through that they just could not understand. Barbara struggled with it too.

It was like Jesus came through like a tornado and started to threaten their very way of life; just like he breaks into our way of life.

Jesus does that. Right when we put the walls up around what is possible or who we should associate with or who is worthy to get in, he tears those barriers down, and shows us that our common humanity is universal – yet his love for us is deeply personal. He’ll go to work on breaking down our defenses until we can see him for who he is.

In this passage, Jesus thanks his Father for hiding these things from the intelligent and revealing them to infants. What I think he is saying is: true wisdom isn’t having all the answers, it is coming with our curiosity and openness of a child; so we see ourselves not as dispensers of truth but as seekers of it. Faith is an ongoing discussion that can be challenging and treacherous, sometimes divisive and chaotic… just like Barbara. 😊

Once we see Jesus for who he is – the son of the Father; sent to love the whole world; accepting you and me for who we are; our lives in the Spirit take on a new direction and a new purpose in the unfolding kingdom around us.

“Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you,  and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

As a natural questioner and seeker, Barbara came as a child to Jesus. And in your care and love of her; found rest. I saw Barbara in a new light her last week in hospice. She was not disheveled. She was not on edge. She was not a living, breathing tornado. She was at peace.

Granted, her body was shutting down, and she was made to be comfortable with great medical care. But she was also surrounded in prayer. She was being attended to by people who loved her for who she was, and who she is as a child of God, and the ‘peace that surpasses understanding’ was with her.

The yoke Jesus gives us – “is easy” he says. Not because it isn’t a big deal or because following him is no trouble. But simply because grace reminds us – entering the kingdom was never about us in the first place. Jesus has done all the heavy lifting. The cross reveals a love for us far greater than we could ever imagine. Easter reveals the most wonderful surprise that awaits us all. His wisdom is far greater than all the questions we could ever ask, no matter how persistent we are.

I like to think Barbara finally understood that reality…

-When she didn’t treat the cancer.

-When she relied on her friends.

-When she came to this community that embraced her rather than reject her.

-When she finally started coming to the altar to receive the sacrament.

-When she found groups at St. Paul like the Book Club, the Thursday Bible Study, the Breakfast Club and Prayer Circle, who simply accepted her, befriended her and welcomed her to the table.

Loving a difficult person can teach us a lot about God’s grace. We all learned a lot from Barbara. I think it hit her like a tornado.

She started, in small glimpses, week after week, interaction after interaction, question after question to see this same Jesus that loved her unconditionally; that embraced her and didn’t let her go; that carried her from this world to the next; whose kingdom started to become a new reality in her life.

She could still be spicy once and a while… but can’t we all?

At the center of who Barbara was becoming was the love that was there all along, and a promise to sustain her in through that journey from death to life. It is the hope shared by Jesus, here among us now, that will carry us through whatever storm we face next:

Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

____

“At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’” (Matthew 11:25-30)

About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Volunteer Firefighter, Teacher, Mission Focused Church Leader, Camp Lover, Change Proponent, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
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