Since our beloved Chris was lost now almost three years ago, I have always been very, very careful to say “younger brother” when I was referring to Austin in relation to Chris. I never wanted him to be the “other” brother.
That was all fine when Austin was 20 and 21 and 22, even. I could justify it then. Chris was 22 when he died. But today Austin turned 23. I’ve been dreading this moment in some ways for the last month or so. I mean, is he still the younger brother when Chris never reached his 23rd birthday?
I fretted and cried about this. I wondered and prayed. It makes me so very, very sad now that Austin is in some ways older than Chris. But I have come to a conclusion. Just as I am always Chris’s mom, Austin is always Chris’s younger brother and Chris is always Austin’s older brother.
I don’t know if there is too much more I want to say tonight…well, with me there’s always a little more. I have been feeling overwhelmed with Austin’s birthday this year. It seems momentous and overwhelming. So I decided that today’s birthday was about Austin. I had a surprise party for him on Facebook Live since we’re basically quarantined here. How about you?
Austin deserves to have his birthdays be as happy as they can be, after all. In our surprise party, we gave a toast to Chris, but we also sang happy birthday and smiled and laughed a little bit. Austin has worked hard. He’s been in therapy almost since Chris died. I encourage you to send your kids to a good and compatible therapist when they experience hardship or trauma. We’ve both gone. I don’t know exactly where we’d be without it.
Austin was/is going to college to be a math teacher–assuming there is still school after this virus is all said and done. He has a really good group of friends. They hang out and they gather virtually. They have stood by him and helped him in his grief these three years. I had worried a lot about Austin if something happened to me. We have some other family, but we’ve been really tight, with Chris, too, as a family unit. He has his framily, as some people call it. I had always thought that if something happened to me, Chris and Austin would take care of each other. Chris leaving us first was never in my brain as a possible scenario. But now Austin has his people. I know they care for him and will care for him, and he for them, and I find peace in that.
In this time of quarantine and social isolation, I am so blessed to be with Austin and Josue. I miss my mom, though. They won’t let us see her at the nursing home. I miss my family and friends and the people of Tapestry. We don’t know what will happen, and even if we think we do, we don’t. But I do know that we are not alone. Reach out to me if you need to talk or if you want me to pray for you. Reach out to others. Check in. See how they’re doing.
Dos veces al mes mando un correo-electrónico a mi lista de Tapestry, la iglesia que fundé y que ahora sirvo. Somos una comunidad de fe relativamente pequeña pero también impactamos mucho nuestra vecindad. Ya hemos enseñado español e inglés a unos cientos de personas. Muchas veces les damos de comer a más de 100 personas en una semana cuando tenemos clases, servicios de alabanzas u otros eventos. Más importante, sin embargo, proveemos oportunidades para que la gente cree relaciones basadas en el amor de Jesús con gente diferente a uno/a. Empezamos “Escuela Lunical” con nuestros ninos y ninas y también tenemos un grupo juvenil. Lo hacemos con un presupuesto pequeño y corazón grande.
Gozamos mucho del tiempo que estamos juntos/as. Es significante para nosotros/as y nuestra comunidad. Importan nuestras relaciones.
Bueno. De vuelta al correo. Me he estado preguntando durante varios días como dirigirme a la gente que sirvo y a la comunidad en medio de todo lo que es el Coronavirus. Cuando empecé a escribir se me ocurrio que iba a ser largo. Supongo que lo pudiera haber hecho más corto, pero hay algunas cosas que quiero decir. Espero que tomes el tiempo para leerlo.
Así había empezado:
Ahh…El Coronavirus y qué hacer…
No soy científica ni epidemióloga así que esas respuestas no tengo. Pero yo busco mi soledad y paz en la Palabra. Comparto hoy contigo algunos de mis versículos favoritos de la Biblia. Muchos/as ya saben que murio mi hijo mayor hace casi tres años ahora. Estaba perdido 10 dias antes de encontrarlo.
Hace mucho desde que escribo aquí sobre mi querido hijo Chris y mi propio camino en el duelo y la sanación, y ahora parece bien volver a escribir.
Si sigues este blog, sabrás, entonces, que se perdió mi querido hijo Chris en el Río Misisipi el 25 de abril del año 2017, y pasaron 10 días antes de que lo encontraran el 4 de mayo de 2017. Tal vez has leído antes esta historia, pero la vuelvo a compartir.
Me notificaron alrededor de las 10:30 de la noche del martes 25 abril 2017 que era posible que Chris se había perdido en el Río Misisipi. (Puedes buscar esas fechas en este blog y leer más si te interesa). No recibí ninguna comunicación de nadie durante esa noche, y cuando llame me mandaban de un lado para otro sin ninguna respuesta. No dormi. Ni una chispa.
Se llenó el dia siguiente con entrevistas con las noticias donde compartí quién era Chris y por que era tan importante que lo encontraran. Se llenó el dia con conversaciones con la policía y con familia y amigos/as. Se llenó con caminar en las nubes, lo único importante encontrar a mi bello y amado hijo.
No dormí la segunda noche tampoco. Pase la noche escuchando y meciéndome a “Wanting Memories (Queriendo memorias)” por el grupo Sweet Honey in the Rock (Miel dulce en la Roca). Todavía no había ninguna noticia acerca de mi hijo bello.
Por fin me acosté sobre el sofá alrededor de las 5:00 de la madrugada. Estaba prendida la luz pero todavía no me llegaba el sueño. Mientras estaba acostada, sentí que Jesús vino y se acostó detrás de mí. Me abrazó y me dijo, >>No te preocupes. Estoy cuidando a Chris. Está bien. Y tú también estás bien.<<
Tal vez preguntas cómo sería posible que Chris estuviera bien. O igual, cómo yo podría estar bien. En ese momento, yo sentí una paz profunda que solo Dios puede dar, una paz que sobrepasa toda comprensión. Todavía ando con esa paz en el alma.
Claro que a veces me molestan las cosas. Claro que a veces me preocupo. Pero vuelvo una y otra vez a esta imagen de Jesús quien estaba conmigo en los peores momentos, y esa paz que me lleno y que me permitió dormir.
¿Así que, la preocupacion? Eso entiendo. Y también entiendo soltar esa preocupación y ponerla en los brazos del que está con nosotros y quien nos trae la paz que sobrepasa toda la comprensión humana.
Esto lo comparto con ustedes por lo de la Coronavirus y los miedos y las preocupaciones que la acompañan. Todos/as tenemos que tomar decisiones y decidir cómo actuar. Es probable que nos limiten a todos/as en nuestros movimientos. Y se que no voy a poder visitar a mi mama que se declina todos los días con su demencia todos los días. Se están cancelando actividades por todas partes.
Les animo a que confíen en la promesa que Dios anda contigo. Comparto aquí unos versículos favoritos de Mateo 6 de la Biblia:
»Por eso les digo: No se preocupen por su vida, qué comerán o beberán; ni por su cuerpo, cómo se vestirán. ¿No tiene la vida más valor que la comida, y el cuerpo más que la ropa? Fíjense en las aves del cielo: no siembran ni cosechan ni almacenan en graneros; sin embargo, el Padre celestial las alimenta. ¿No valen ustedes mucho más que ellas? ¿Quién de ustedes, por mucho que se preocupe, puede añadir una sola hora al curso de su vida?
»¿Y por qué se preocupan por la ropa? Observen cómo crecen los lirios del campo. No trabajan ni hilan; sin embargo, les digo que ni siquiera Salomón, con todo su esplendor, se vestía como uno de ellos. Si así viste Dios a la hierba que hoy está en el campo y mañana es arrojada al horno, ¿no hará mucho más por ustedes, gente de poca fe? Así que no se preocupen diciendo: “¿Qué comeremos?” o “¿Qué beberemos?” o “¿Con qué nos vestiremos?” Los paganos andan tras todas estas cosas, pero el Padre celestial sabe que ustedes las necesitan. Más bien, busquen primeramente el reino de Dios y su justicia, y todas estas cosas les serán añadidas. Por lo tanto, no se angustien por el mañana, el cual tendrá sus propios afanes. Cada día tiene ya sus problemas.
Les animo a que tomen las decisiones que sienten que tienen que tomar, pero no a base del miedo o la preocupación. Dios te cuida tanto como cuida a los aves del aire y los lirios del campo. Esta es la promesa de Dios.
Los/las mantengo en mis oraciones, especialmente los/las que no pueden dormirse y los/las que sienten una dificultad de orar por sí mismo/a, tanto como hicieron muchos/as por mi cuando no me podía dormir ni orar.
Twice a month I send an e-mail to the people on the e-mail list for Tapestry, the church I founded and serve. We are a relatively small but impactful community of faith. We have now taught Spanish and English to a few hundred people. We often feed more than 100 people in a week when we have classes, worship or other events. Most important, though, we provide opportunities for people to build relationships based in the love of Jesus with people who are different from themselves. We started “Monday School” with our younger kids and now have a Monday night youth group with older kids. We do this with a very small budget and with a lot of heart.
We relish the time we are together. It means something to us and to our community. Our relationships matter.
So back to the e-mail. I’ve been wondering for a few days how to address the people I serve and our community in the midst of the Coronavirus. As I began to write, it occurred to me that it was shaping up to be rather long. I suppose I could have made it short, but there are a few things I want to say. I hope you’ll take the time and read.
Here’s how I had begun:
Ahh…the Coronoavirus and what to do… I am not a scientist nor an epidemiologist so I don’t have those answers for you. But I find my solace and peace from Scripture. I share with you here today some of my favorite verses from the Bible. Many of you know that my older son died almost three years ago now. He was lost in the Mississippi River for 10 days before we found him.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written here about my beloved Chris and my own journey in grief and healing, and now seems like a good time to return.
If you’ve followed this blog, you will, then, know that my beloved Chris was lost in the Mississippi River on April 25, 2017, and that it was 10 days until he was found by the Water Patrol on May 4, 2017. You may have read the following story before, but I want to share it again.
I was notified at about 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017, that it was possible Chris had gone missing in the Mississippi River. (You can go back to that time and read more about that if you’d like). I did not receive any communication from anyone into that night, and when I called I got the run-around. I did not sleep. Not a wink.
The following day was filled with news interviews as I shared who Chris was and why it was so important for him to be found. It was filled with speaking with police and family and friends. It was filled with walking around in a daze, the only thing of importance to me finding my beautiful and beloved son.
The second night I did not sleep, either. I spent the night listening and swaying to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW2TpW4gCt8 “Wanting Memories” by Sweet Honey in the Rock. There was still no word about my beautiful boy.
Finally I laid down on my couch at about 5:00 in the morning. The light was on in my living room and sleep was still elusive. As I laid there, though, I felt Jesus come and lie down behind. He laid there and hugged me and said, “Don’t worry. I’m taking care of Chris. He’s okay. And so are you.”
You might ask how Chris could possibly be okay. Or how I could be okay. In that moment I felt a deep peace that only God can give, that peace that passes all understanding. I still walk with this peace deep in my soul.
Of course things still bother me. Of course I worry sometimes. But I go back again and again to this image of Jesus who was with me in the worst moments and that peace that overcame me and allowed me to sleep.
So worry? I understand worry. And I understand letting go of that worry and placing it into the arms of the one who is with us and brings us a peace that passes all human understanding.
I share this with you today in light of the Coronavirus and the fears and worries that are accompanying it. We all have decisions to make and actions to take. We will all likely be limited in our movements. I already know I will not be able to visit my mom who is declining day by day in her dementia for the next couple of weeks. Activities are being canceled all over the place.
I encourage you to trust God’s promise that God walks with you. I share here some of my favorite words from Matthew 6 from the Bible:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I encourage you to make the decisions you feel you need to make, but not from fear or worry. God is taking care of you just as God cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. This is God’s promise. I will keep you in my prayers, especially those of you who find sleep elusive and are having trouble praying for yourselves, just as so many of you did for me when I found sleep elusive and could not pray for myself.
I finally figured out how to access some of the pictures from biking the last portion of the Mississippi River in memory of my beloved Chris. I biked from the headwaters of thr Mississippi at Lake Itasca to Chris’s tree at the Bohemian Flats. I am thankful for those who accompanied me along this last part of the journey. It was very windy and I was delayed a few days by weather, but I completed this part of my journey in grief.
People ask me how it feels to have biked the length of the Mississippi. I’m not really sure how I feel about it. Intellectually I understand that I part of a relatively small group of people who have done this. But I did this ride day by day. I was so focused on one day to the next that I still can’t comprehend the ride in its entirety.
As I continue to process the ride, I’m sure more will be revealed to me. Some things came more into focus for me. The ride helped me learn to carry my deep grief in such a way that I can be more a part of this world and this life.
People also ask me what’s next. I don’t know this, either. Life has been busy, though I resist the busyness. My call as pastor is full. My life as mom and wife keeps me moving at a pace that far too often feels far too busy.
I’m hoping to find some time to focus on writing and sharing some of Chris’s writings. I want to do some work with walking with people in their grief.
I am full of gratitude for so many people and God has brought small glimpses of joy to my life. I have so many thank you notes to write. They are there roaming I’m my mind. I settle into the spaces where I am, always knowing that there’s this empty space that could consume me without God and family and friends. My Chris was so big in my life. I miss him to the depths of my being. I talk to him sometimes and tell him how much I love him.
These are my Chris days. And this year I’ve felt myself walking numbly through them.
They started on Austin’s 22nd birthday. And then April 1st, which would have been Chris’s 25th birthday. And then April 16th, our last Easter and then April 20th, the last day I saw Chris and then, of course, April 25th, the day Chris was lost in the river. And those ten days…the Saturday following when we can to the river to pray and the day in there whose date I can’t remember when we tied tobacco prayers to a big old tree at Hidden Falls with Sharon Day. And today, May 4th, when they found my beloved son while we were at Bohemian Flats riding bikes and waiting.
I’ve walked numbly through these days. No tears, really, because I’ve been afraid that if I started crying it would mean I was feeling that unbearable grief, and if I was feeling that unbearable grief I would cry. And I wouldn’t stop crying. I can do okay if I don’t start. And when I preach or speak I’m pretty good about getting under control. Well, I have to.
So I has these things under control. That feeling of control, of course. Not real control. Just… maintenance… survival.
Today that has come to an end. Again. I was going to go to Bohemian Flats and touch Chris’s tree, but I thought I’d come down to St. Anthony Falls, the place where this all began.
I walked into three gate where Chris would have walked through (not over as the police report said).
I walked down the path to the Falls.
And I walked to the Falls. The last place my baby was alive.
And I looked… and one detail was confirmed for me. This picture above us of the rail they climbed over to sit in the ledge. Two years ago they added a sign saying “Do not enter.” But I hadn’t remembered that being there originally. I’m stuck because it’s not there now and I can’t help but think they put it there in case I decided to sue or something. Not a sign put there to advise people. A cya sign.
And I looked…
And I cried…
The tears washed down my face and my grief rolled through my body. There were people all around me but I was alone. There are people all around me in my life, but this grief is mine.
And I looked again at this place and thought again about the police reports that question that night but whose discrepancies were not investigated, and the about the people upset with me for expressing my doubts about a story that is full of discrepancies and my blood began to boil.
I was thinking about Chris’s last moments. His back was broken, likely right away and there wasn’t so much water in his lungs, from what I understood. My friend says he likely experienced euphoria at the end. I don’t know, of course, but I hope so. Both Austin and I think he would have surrendered and gone peacefully in the river he loved.
So I breathed and I asked God to bring me peace. And my sighs were too deep for words and the Spirit interceded for me.
And now I’m sitting at Wilde Cafe where we spent so much time during this days and having a bite to eat and a glass of wine on the patio, taking advantage of this glorious day.
I’m writing. And crying.
I’m remembering the promise I always tell people they God will turn my tears to joy. And I believe that. I don’t know when that will happen, but I believe it will.
So today my grief and my tears overwhelm me. I am reminded that control is but a facade, and that’s okay. My love for Chris was unbounded and so of course my grief is deep. Not as deep as my love, but so deep that the tears must be released so that the grief can be released and love and peace may overflow.
I have shared with you here so much of my sorrow. I’ve shared doubts and questions. I’ve shared joy and hope. I haven’t shared much about anger. I have been afraid of anger my entire life. I am, right now, afraid of the anger within me. It is foreign to me. I share here because I need to acknowledge my whole self with myself, and I want to share because I don’t want to hide.
This post is about anger. I have told a couple of friends that I am pretty sure I am so angry that God has numbed me some to it so I can survive it.
I received the sheriff’s report regarding Chris’s death a few days ago. I’ve written before that I believe that the stories as told are not true. I am pretty sure I know what happened that night.
As I read through the sheriff’s report, I found myself incredibly angry at law enforcement who did not follow through and do their jobs, who did not ask the questions that needed to be asked, who seemed to want to move on to something else. Some of my Latino friends have told me that they’ve always know their communities have suffered from injustices from law enforcement, but they are surprised because as a white family, we have suffered a grave injustice, too. I know law enforcement folks do a lot of good. But sometimes they mess up.
Austin asked me why I have asked for the police reports. I told him something like this: I was with a liar for 12 years, married to him 10, accepted his gaslighting and outright lies for 10-1/2 of those years. Finally I woke up. Finally I began to see how I enabled him. Finally I began to see how I had lived in denial for a large part of my life. I clawed my way out of the facade that was my life with a lot of hard work, tears and prayers, and I learned to live a more honest life. I refuse to go back there. I especially refuse to go back there when it has to do with my child. My oldest son. I honor his life by looking for truth. By demanding truth. I understand that I may never have the truth, but I will do everything to have it.
I find myself angry at those who have faulted me for wanting the truth about my beloved son. I find myself angry at the one who was there, who knows what happened and who ran away. None of them know that there is great forgiveness in my heart because God is at work there. I will not hold on to this anger. My body, mind and soul do not work that way. But today it is there.
People ask me if I am angry at God. Not today. Maybe not yet. I don’t know. Maybe that day will come. I have never believed that this was God’s plan for Chris. Never. In fact, I have felt that God was angry, too. God brings light and life. Not death and destruction. That’s something else.
I’m writing this this morning because I just received a call from the Minneapolis Police Department. Chris’s file is ready for me to pick up. They have video and audio recordings, I am told, of that night and some of the interviews following. They have Chris’s last journal entries that the took from his journal to see what his frame of mind was.
I am shaking. I am this close to wailing. Josue is unavailable at CPE for a few hours and Austin is sleeping. They don’t even know yet that I’m headed downtown. I know I have family and friends that I can reach out to, but today I do this on my own. I have my Tapestry family and my larger church family. I am so incredibly grateful for all of these people. These are the ones who have walked by me last 23 months and 4 days.
Chris’s birthday is Monday. Monday I will focus on my eternal love for Chris.
Today I will carry this rage and find ways to express it in as healthy a manner as I can. I will cry and pray and probably hunker down in bed for awhile. I probably won’t yet look at the videos of Chris’s last moments on this earth. Not yet. I will look at his journal entries.
I ask you, friends, for your prayers today. Share a Psalm with me or a poem or a song that you turn to when you are angry. I don’t know if I will turn to them today, but I will someday. Even as I finish writing, I can feel some of the tension subside. I know I am not alone.
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them] with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:1-8
Tomorrow I will be a guest preacher at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Bloomington as part of their Lenten Lunch Series. Their theme for this Lenten season is “Senses” and they presented me with this passage and the sense of smell.
I have an idea of where my mind took me with this passage and the sense of smell, but I wonder if I will have the courage to talk about what is in my heart tomorrow. Since Chris was lost, I have only been able to write one sermon. The rest have come from someplace within me. Some I have been able to get where I need to get, and others…well, not. I figure this is the same whether I write my sermons or not. Since I can’t write them, as my dad would say, it is what it is. I always pray the Spirit will work in my words so that people will hear what they need to hear either through my words or in spite of them.
Since, for some odd reason I can write blogs even though I can’t write sermons, I thought I’d try to make some sense of this text and my thoughts on my blog before preaching tomorrow. I am sure the title indicates some of what I will say.
This is the text of the sermon I ended up preaching:
Much has been written and spoken about this story in John. Preachers preach a lot about Judas and betrayal and stealing and what it means when Jesus says we will always have the poor among us. Preachers talk a lot about Mary and her motivations for anointing Jesus in the manner in which she did. They, we, talk a lot about the extravagance of the oil, the oil that cost as much as a common worker’s yearly salary, the oil with such a strong aroma that it must have taken over the entire house with as much as Mary used.
I wish one of these was my topic this morning, but it isn’t. I was asked to preach about this text and I was told the theme of the morning is the sense of smell. My mind didn’t take me to the aromas of the oil. It took me somewhere else, somewhere I would have preferred not to go.
Some time ago I presided at a funeral for a child who had been murdered. Due to a number of circumstances, we waited as long as we could before holding the funeral. We waited as long as laws or practicality would allow.
Over the last few years, I have walked with people while they knew they were dying and have been with people as they breathed their last. This is, indeed, sacred work. But I had not ever been with a body, much less a child’s, that had been held for more than a few days. Any other time I had been around a corpse, there may have been a slight odor, but it was bearable. This time it was different. This time the stench of death could not be covered up, even with an extravagant amount of very expensive oil.
Many members of the family wanted to open the casket and see the child before the service. The funeral director recommended against it as the smell would be so strong. But the family insisted. I will never forget the smell–if I’m honest, the stench, though that word sounds so incredibly harsh. I wanted to cringe. To run away. But I couldn’t. Out of deep respect for this family and this child, I had to stay. To honor this child’s life and death, and to honor this family’s love, I had to stay. I had to endure the stench.
As some of you know, my son Chris was lost in the river now 23 months ago. You prayed for him and for me and for my family during the 10 days he was lost in the river. Praise be to God they found his body. Then they took him to the morgue and then to the funeral home, but it was another 5 days before I could actually see him, before I could actually view the body of my beloved son.
When the day arrived that I could finally see him, I was just a tiny bit prepared. We walked into a big room at the funeral home and his body laid wrapped in the bag still. Because his body had been battered in the falls, only one arm and his face were revealed. His face looked different, but I could see it was still him.
So I walked toward the body of this one who had been my beloved son, my beloved who had been so full of life.
And there it was. The stench of death. And yes. I know it sounds harsh. It smelled harsh. It was harsh. In fact, the smell was so harsh, I touched him briefly and walked away because I did not want my memory of my son, the one who had smelled so full of life when he was born, to be of that stench of death.
I am so sorry to share these stories with you. I would prefer to be talking about many other topics with you this morning, but this is where the Spirit has led me today.
Since Chris was lost, I have only been able to write one sermon. Today, however, I thought I could only preach half of this sermon if I wrote it down, because it has taken some courage for me to preach it and, I’m sure, courage for you to hear it.
Too often we want to cover the stench of death. We are afraid of death. In our society, we don’t want to talk about death. But some of you, too, know too much about death and dying. Whether we want to talk about it or not, it is our truth and when we can see death, smell death, acknowledge death, then it is we can move from there. I had to write this sermon, because since Chris died, sometimes it is hard for me to move on from this place of death. But of course, this is not where we are meant to stay.
In this story we read today, the people gathered also didn’t want to talk about death, especially Jesus’ death. They didn’t want to acknowledge what was right in front of their eyes, what they had heard on the streets, what they felt in their bones, what they could taste in the air. They didn’t want to acknowledge the stench of death, of Jesus’ death, that enveloped them.
They thought if he died, then their hope died along with him.
Except for Mary. She took enormous care with her beloved Lord. She covered him so intimately using her hair with an extravagant amount of perfume. She anointed him with oil and with love. She didn’t run away from the truth of Jesus’ death. She approached him with all the love and honor that his life and death deserved and anointed him with an aroma that showed that Jesus’ death would lead to something that would, indeed, be stronger than death.
During this time of Lent, we walk in these reflections of our own mortality as we come near the time of Jesus’ death on the cross.
But that is not where Jesus stayed, and that is not where we stay, either.
We don’t stay in the stench of death because Jesus did not stay there. This is not where Jesus’ story ends, and it is not where the child’s story ended. It is not where Chris’s story ended. It is not where my story ends, and it is not where your story ends.
I cannot say it any better than Paul says it in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.
After Chris died, I asked a number of congregations to make memory quilts for me. Women from St. Stephen made this beautiful quilt for me out of Chris’s clothes. I share it this morning because I sometimes feel like I can smell life in them. Just a hint, and because of your beloved community you have brought me some hope and comfort. The aroma of a risen Christ permeates this place.
I also had a stole made for me out of some of Chris’s clothes. I told the person who made it that I wanted to include a symbol of baptism along with waters that represented the waters of baptism as I was planning to wear this stole when I preached as I rode my bike along the Mississippi River last fall in memory of my son.
I still find myself discovering the meaning in these gifts that were made with love for me and that I can share as gifts of love in this world that is so stuck with the stench of death. Listen to Jesus’ words from John 7:
‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’
These living waters of baptism unite us with Christ. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
We walk in this time of reflection of our own deaths knowing that Jesus fills us with the fragrance of new life. This aroma of new life in us is the aroma we share in this world so that the fragrance of the resurrected and living Lord may overwhelm with the truth of new life in Christ in as extravagant and loving a manner as Mary anointed her beloved Jesus. Praise be to God for this aroma in Christ Jesus that removes the stench of death and brings us to where all of our senses are overcome with fragrance that comes from knowing him. Amen
(Hermanos y hermanas, les pido mil disculpas por cualquier falta de ortografia. Me toma mucho tiempo hacer las traducciones y no siempre se me sale bien toda ortografia. Haganme saber si tienen alguna pregunta. Gracias.)
Seis días antes de la Pascua llegó Jesús a Betania, donde vivía Lázaro, a quien Jesús había resucitado.Allí se dio una cena en honor de Jesús. Marta servía, y Lázaro era uno de los que estaban a la mesa con él. 3María tomó entonces como medio litro de nardo puro, que era un perfume muy caro, y lo derramó sobre los pies de Jesús, secándoselos luego con sus cabellos. Y la casa se llenó de la fragancia del perfume. Judas Iscariote, que era uno de sus discípulos y que más tarde lo traicionaría, objetó:—¿Por qué no se vendió este perfume, que vale muchísimo dinero, para dárselo a los pobres? Dijo esto no porque se interesara por los pobres, sino porque era un ladrón y, como tenía a su cargo la bolsa del dinero, acostumbraba robarse lo que echaban en ella.—Déjala en paz —respondió Jesús—. Ella ha estado guardando este perfume para el día de mi sepultura. A los pobres siempre los tendrán con ustedes, pero a mí no siempre me tendrán. San Juan 12:1-8
Mañana voy a ser predicadora visitantes en la Iglesia Luterana San Esteban en Bloomington como parte de su Serie de Cuaresma a la hora de almorzar. Su tema para esta Cuaresma es “Los Sentidos” y me presentaron con este texto y el sentido del olfato.
Tengo una idea de hacia donde me llevo la mente con este texto y el sentido del olfato, pero me pregunto si tendré el coraje para hablar mañana sobre lo que llevo en el corazón. Desde que se perdió Chris, solo he podido escribir un sermón. Los demás han salido de adentro de mi. Con algunos he llegado adonde tengo que llegar, y otros…pues…no. Creo que es lo mismo lo escriba o no. Como diria mi papa: Es lo que es. Siempre le pido a Dios que el Espíritu trabaje con mis palabras para que la gente escuche lo que necesiten escuchar o por medio de mis palabras o a pesar de ellas.
Como por alguna razón que no se explica, yo puedo escribir un blog aunque no puedo escribir sermones, así que pensé que trataría de buscar sentido con este texto y mis pensamientos usando este blog antes de predicar mañana. Estoy segura que el título indica algo de lo que quiero decir.
Este es el texto que predique hoy:
Se ha escrito y hablado sobre esta historia en Juan. Los y las predicadores predican mucho sobre Judas y la traición y robar y lo que significa cuando Jesús dice que siempre habrá los pobres entre nosotros. Los y las predicadores hablan sobre Maria y sus motivos por ungir a Jesús en la manera en que lo hizo. Ellos, nosotros, hablamos mucho sobre la extravagancia del aceite, el aceite que cuesta tanto como un trabajador gana en un año, el aceite con un aroma tan fuerte que hubiera dominado la casa entera como uso Mary.
Ojala y uno de estos fuera mi tema de hoy, pero no lo es. Me pidieron que predicara sobre este texto y me dijeron que el tema de hoy es el sentido del olfato. No se me llevo la mente a las aromas del aceite. Me llevo a otro lado, un lugar donde hubiera preferido no ir.
Hace tiempo presidi en un funeral para un niño que fue matado. Por varias circunstancias esperamos tanto como pudiéramos antes de hacer el funeral. Esperamos tanto como se podía según las leyes y la practicalidad.
Durante los últimos años he caminado con gente mientras moría y he estado con gente cuando ha tomado su último aliento. Esto, seguramente, es trabajo sagrado. Pero nunca había estado con un cuerpo, ni mucho menos el de un niño, que había estado por más de unos pocos días. En otros momentos cuando había estado con un cadáver, tal vez hubiera un pequeño olor, pero se aguantaba. Esta vez fue diferente. Esta vez no era posible cubrir el hedor de la muerte, aun con una cantidad extravagante de un aceite muy caro.
Muchos familiares querían abrir el ataúd y ver al niño antes del servicio. El director del funeral recomendó que no lo hicieran porque sería muy fuerte el olor. Pero insistio la familia. Nunca se me va a olvidar del olor. Si soy honesta, el hedor, aunque esa palabra suena demasiado duro. Quise encogerme. Huirme. Pero no pude. Por respeto profundo para esta familia y este niño, tuve que quedarme. Para honrar la vida y la muerte de este niño, y para honrar el amor de la familia, tuve que quedarme. Tuve que aguantar el hedor.
Como saben muchos de ustedes, mi hijo Chris fue perdido en el río ahora hace 23 meses. Ustedes rezaron por él y por mi y por mi familia durante los 10 días que estuvo perdido en el río. Gracias a Dios encontraron el cuerpo. Lo llevaron al morgue y no lo pude ver ahí hasta que lo llevaran al funerario despues de 5 días mas, 5 dias mas antes de poder ver a mi amado hijo.
Cuando llego el dia en que lo pude ver, estuve un poquitito preparada. Entramos en un salon grande en la funeraria y ahi estaba su cuerpo envuelto todavía en la bolsa. Porque se había pegado mucho su cuerpo en el río, solo era visible un brazo y la cara. Se miraba diferente la cara pero todavía se notaba que el era.
Así camine hacia el cuerpo de este que había sido mi amado hijo, mi hijo que había sido lleno de vida.
Y ahí estaba. El hedor de la muerte. Y si. Ya se que suena demasiado duro. Olio duro. Era duro. De hecho, era tan fuerte el olor que lo toque brevemente y me partí de él rápidamente porque no quería que la memoria de mi hijo fuera de ese hedor de la muerte.
Lamento mucho compartir con ustedes hoy estas historias. Preferiría hablar con ustedes sobre muchos otros temas esta mañana, pero hasta acá me ha guiado el Espíritu Santo.
Desde que se perdió Chris, solo he podido escribir un sermón. Mas sin embargo hoy, pensé que solo podría predicar la mitad de este sermón si no lo escribiera porque ha tomado coraje para predicarlo y, estoy segura, coraje para que lo escuchen ustedes.
Demasiadas son las veces que queremos cubrir el hedor de la muerte. Tenemos miedo de la muerte. En nuestra sociedad no queremos hablar sobre la muerte. Pero algunos de ustedes también conocen demasiado el morir y la muerte. Queremos o no hablar sobre la muerte, es nuestra verdad y cuando podemos ver la muerte, oler la muerte, reconocer la muerte, es cuando podemos podemos movernos de ahí. Tuve que escribir este sermón porque desde murió Chris, puede ser difícil que yo me mueva de este lugar. Pero claro, aquí no es donde estamos destinados/as a quedarnos.
En esta historia que leímos hoy, la gente reunida no querían platicar sobre la muerte tampoco, ni mucho menos sobre la muerte de Jesús. No querían reconocer lo que estaba enfrente de sus ojos, lo que habían escuchado en las calles, lo que sentían en los huesos, lo que podían saborear en el aire. No querían reconocer el hedor de la muerte, de la muerte de Jesús, que los envolvía.
Pensaron que si muriera el, entonces tambien moria su esperanza con el.
Con la excepción de Maria. Ella se cuido enormemente con su amado Jesús. Lo cubrió íntimamente usando el pelo con una cantidad extravagante del perfume. Lo ungió con el aceite y el amor. No se huyó de la verdad de la muerte del Señor, Se le acercó con todo el amor y honor que merecía su vida y su muerte y lo ungió con un aroma que enseno que la muerte de Jesús los llevaria a algo que sería más fuerte que la muerte.
Durante este tiempo de Cuaresma, caminamos en estas reflexiones de nuestra propia mortalidad ahora que nos acercamos a la hora de la muerte de Jesús sobre la cruz.
Pero ahí no se quedó Jesús, y ahí no nos quedamos tampoco. Ahí no se termina la historia de Jesús y no es donde termino la historia del niño. Ahí no es donde termino la historia de mi hijo. No es donde termina mi historia. Y no es donde termina tu historia.
No lo puedo decir mejor que Pablo en 2 Corintios 2:14-17:
Sin embargo, gracias a Dios que en Cristo siempre nos lleva triunfantes y, por medio de nosotros, esparce por todas partes la fragancia de su conocimiento. Porque para Dios nosotros somos el aroma de Cristo entre los que se salvan y entre los que se pierden. Para estos somos olor de muerte que los lleva a la muerte; para aquellos, olor de vida que los lleva a la vida. ¿Y quién es competente para semejante tarea?A diferencia de muchos, nosotros no somos de los que trafican con la palabra de Dios. Más bien, hablamos con sinceridad delante de él en Cristo, como enviados de Dios que somos.
Después de morir mi hijo, les pedí a unas señoras de unas congregaciones que me hicieran un edredón de memoria. Algunas mujeres de San Esteban hicieron este edredón para mi con la ropa de Chris. Comparto esto porque a veces siento que puedo oler vida en ellos. Un poquito, y por medio de su amada comunidad me han traído alguna esperanza y confort. El aroma de Cristo permea este lugar.
Tambien pedi una estola de una ropa de Chris. Le dije a la person que la hizo que quería que incluyera un símbolo del bautizo junto con aguas que representan las aguas del bautizo porque planificaba usar esta estola cuando predicaba cuando iba en bici por el Río Misisipi en memoria de mi hijo.
Todavía me encuentro descubriendo el significado de estos regalos que fueron hechos con amor para mi y que puedo compartir como regalos del amor en este mundo que está estancado en el hedor de la muerte.
Escuchen estas palabras de Jesús en San Juan capítulo 7:
De aquel que cree en mí, como dice la Escritura, brotarán ríos de agua viva.
Estas aguas vivientes del bautismo nos unen con Cristo. Porque si hemos sido unidos/as con el en una muerte como la suya, seguramente seremos unidos/as con el en una resurrección como la suya.
Caminamos en este tiempo de reflexión sobre nuestra propia muerte sabiendo que Jesús nos llena con la fragancia de la nueva vida. Esta aroma de nueva vida dentro de nosotros/as es la aroma que compartimos con este mundo para que la fragancia del Señor resucitado y viviente pueda abrumar con la verdad de la nueva vida en Cristo de una manera tan extravagante y amorosa como ungió Maria a su querido Jesús. Alabamos a Dios por esta aroma en Jesucristo que remueva el hedor de la muerte y nos lleva adonde se nos abruman todos nuestros sentidos con la fragancia que viene con conocerlo a él. Amen