A Brief Graveside Sermon for Bryan Braim

A Brief Graveside Sermon for Bryan Ross Braim, based on Job 19:25-27; Rom 14:7-8 & Jn 11:25-26; by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson; April 29, 2017, eleven o’clock.

A husband, dad, granddad, friend, neighbour, and member of God’s family, Bryan Ross Braim, has left this life and is no longer with us. You will miss him for sure, as will all of us at Bethany Meadows. In times like this, we turn to the Word of the LORD for comfort and strength, healing and hope.

Our first reading from the Book of Job is quite appropriate for this season of Easter, reminding us that, even though Job faced many sufferings and losses, including his family members, property, and ill-health, he still refused to lose hope in God. In these verses, he looks forward to God the Redeemer who is the God of life, and after death, the resurrection of the body. As a person of faith, we trust that Bryan, like Job, looked forward to a hopeful future, when God would heal him of his ill-health, and raise him to life eternal.

As we remember Bryan and his life, we are also encouraged by the words of the apostle Paul in our passage from Romans. Bryan, as the apostle Paul says, did not live to himself, nor did he die to himself. Rather, he lived and died to the Lord Jesus. He did this; I’m told, by thinking of others putting them first before himself, with a kind heart and a life for serving the needs of others.

I appreciated Bryan’s very supportive attitude toward me and my work as the chaplain at Bethany Meadows. Bryan, when he was able to, enjoyed attending all of the pastoral care activities and events at Bethany Meadows. He would often tell me that he appreciated the sermons, and thanked me for the Bible studies. On one occasion I recall he was so enthusiastic about the Bible Study that he even tried to recruit staff members to attend. As the caring, kind-hearted person that he was, sometimes he would express concern that I might be working too hard. Bryan’s expression of concern for me was a moving example of his compassion for others. I’m told that he was also supportive and kind-hearted to all of his pastors where he attended church.

As a person of faith then, it is with hope and confidence that we entrust Bryan to Jesus, who speaks those words of comfort and hope in our passage from the Gospel of John: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

My prayer for each one of you is that you will take these words of Jesus to heart, believe them, trust them, and move into the future with comfort and strength, healing and hope. As the resurrection and the life, Christ has conquered the powers of sin, death and evil. As his followers, we too, including Bryan, shall share in his Easter victory, and one day a resurrection like his, and life with a capital L-life eternal. Amen.

 

 

Sermon Easter Day Year A

Read my sermon for April 16, 2017 here: Easter Day Yr A

Sermon Good Friday Yr A

Read my sermon for April 14, 2017 here: Good Friday Yr A

Sermon for 5th Sunday in Lent Yr A

Read my sermon for April 2, 2017 here: 5 Lent Yr A

Book Review: Healing Of Soul, Healing Of Body

Healing Of Soul, Healing Of Body: Spiritual Leaders Unfold the Strength & Solace in Psalms

Author: Edited By Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, CSW A Project of the Jewish Healing Center

Publisher: Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing

115 pages, ISBN 1-879045-31-1, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

In the “How To Use This Book” section, the purpose of this little volume is stated: “This book is intended to help you—struggling with illness or helping someone who is—derive spiritual healing from Psalms” (p. 11). Accordingly, the focus then is on what the late 18th century, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov referred to as the ten “healing psalms,” they are: Psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150. Readers will find helpful, practical suggestions on how to use these psalms.

In the “Introduction” chapter, Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub provides an overview of who Rabbi Nachman was, and the ten different kinds of songs found in these ten “healing psalms.” Each song has a corresponding Sefirot… “of the Kabbalah, the mystical attributes through which the Creator brought the universe into being. These Ten Sefirot are called “Direct Light,” shining from the Creator to the world” (p. 19). For example, one type of song is called a Niggun, “Melody,” and its corresponding Sefir is Hessed, “Lovingkindness.” In “Notes To Introduction,” there is a list of all ten Songs and corresponding Sefir.

Ten rabbis from four denominations—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstruction—each write one of the chapters; providing a wide range of insights and approaches to these psalms.

The structure of each chapter is as follows: A Hebrew and English translation of the psalm, along with a commentary on it.

For this reader, the most helpful chapter was by Rabbi Maurice Lamm, commenting on Psalm 105. Rabbi Lamm offers several insights regarding the importance of songs and singing to facilitate communion with God and healing if not of the body, then of the mind and soul. For example: “The word shir, meaning song, also derives from shur, meaning insight. When we sing we raise our souls to God, and we gain insight into Him” (p. 83). I think this emphasis on singing songs regardless of our situation is most timely in our day and age, since very few people seem to sing anymore—one wonders if they are the poorer in health as a consequence.

In addition to this volume’s chapters, there is information about each of the contributors, suggested resources for further reading, helpful organizations, information about the Jewish Healing Center, and Jewish Light Publishing and several of their publications.

 

 

Rabbi Sacks’s commentary on Leonard Cohen’s song

One of my favourite contemporary Jewish scholars and rabbis is Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. In this brilliant commentary on Leonard Cohen’s recent song, shortly before he died, “You Want It Darker,” Rabbi Sacks points out several references in the song to the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish tradition. The moment I heard Leonard Cohen’s song, I was astounded by it’s sobering tragedy and beauty. Although Cohen dabbled in other faiths, I think he died a faithful Jew. He was a contemporary Job, having lots of unanswered  questions of God, and facing suffering, and moved by the suffering and evil in the world to continue writing songs and singing them, and in the darkness and hatred of the world, letting light shine and love reaching out to make a difference in the lives of others. In his lover’s quarrel with God, he could still die singing Hallelujah.

2017 Nordlys Film & Arts Festival

Program cover of the Nordlys Festival

Program cover of the Nordlys Festival

We attended, for the first time ever, the 8th annual Nordlys Film & Arts Festival here in Camrose at the historic Bailey Theatre downtown. The word Nordlys is Norwegian for northern lights-aurora borealis.

Although we didn’t purchase the all-inclusive pass, since we were unable to attend Sunday’s offerings, we opted for a Friday pass, which included the opening ceremonies and two films, as well as music from local musicians Stephen Olson, and Tigs & Whisky.

The first film, entitled “Pawn Sacrifice,” originated from the USA in 2016. It’s executive producer was former Camrosian, Dale Armin Johnson, who was present for the film and a Q & A afterwards. The film is described as a “Biographical Drama,” telling the story of American chess prodigy, Bobby Fischer, played by Tobey Maguire. “Pawn Sacrifice” is a thoughtful study of the narrow line between genius and madness. The film intersperses clips dating back to the Cold War 1970s of Fischer and others, as well as borrowing music from that time from musicians such as Credence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane. The film is both a reasonably accurate portrayal of superpower rivalry in the Cold War period as well as a statement about the tragic destiny of a chess genius.

The second film was “Ida,” originated from Poland, and described as a “Drama.” Ida is a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland. The film follows her life journey as she meets up with an aunt who travels with her to discover that she is Jewish and her parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation of Poland. A rather sad, sober, and tragic film in every respect.

On Saturday we purchased tickets for the afternoon Alberta Short Docs. They were absolutely marvellous! I was thoroughly impressed with three of the seven short docs.

My favourite short doc was the first one, “We regret to Inform You…,” directed by Eva Colmers and Heidi Janz. The film highlighted how narrow and exclusive government bureaucrats can define and apply their criteria regarding who is or is not eligible for disability funding. The film features a day in the life of Ph.D. scholar Heidi Janz, and is a legitimate critique of government policies regarding the differently-abled.

The second short doc was entitled “The Grasslands Project: Life Out Here.” It focussed on four ranching and farming women in southern Alberta, portraying their life and times. The film addresses themes such as the role of farm and ranch women,  isolation and the need to improvise and be independent as well as neighbourly in order to survive, the freedom, beauty and joy of the open prairie rangeland, and more.

My third favourite short doc was “Classic Camera.” The title is actually the name of a camera store in Edmonton. The store is run by an 85-year-old gentleman, Wally Franiel. The store is full of non digital cameras and equipment from bygone days, although some still choose to use these old cameras. Wally is a wonderful eccentric, who enjoys telling many a tale.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Nordlys festival, and hope to go next year as well.