Graveside sermon for Eveline Grymaloski

Open Bible-public domain image

Graveside sermon for Eveline Grymaloski, based on Rom 5:1-5 & Isa 25:6-9, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Camrose Cemetery, July 10, 2018.

As I thought about Eveline, one of the first things that came to mind was that she was a person of character—that reminded me of the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Notice that Paul says our life as followers of Jesus is productive. As I think of Eveline, I believe that she was a person of endurance—she had to be, since she lived for 100 years! Now that’s endurance! Her endurance however was not stagnant rather, it produced character, and her character produced hope.

Eveline was a sweet person, and will be dearly missed by you family members, as well as by our residents and staff.

She was an avid reader. On occasion, she would read something humorous, and then she would take it to the staff members of Spruce Cottage and read it for them. After that, she would have a good laugh with the staff.

Eveline enjoyed visiting with her companion, Phyllis, they had many meaningful conversations together.

There was a poem that she liked to recite for staff: “Won’t you be mine, Eveline? Yes I will, yes I will, if you only be still.”

She was a very friendly, happy and affectionate person. Residents and staff can remember Eveline holding their hand, kissing it, and then wiping off her kiss with a Kleenex.

For as long as she was able, she participated in exercises. She also did very well in getting around with her wheelchair—in fact, at the blink of an eye, she was half way down the hallway! I teased her about that, and told her she was speeding, and she had better watch out, because she might get a speeding ticket! 🙂

Eveline was a singer, she loved participating in our cottage Hymn-Sings. She also enjoyed attending the Sunday church Services, Wednesday Devotions, and when she was able, the Thursday night Bible studies.

Eveline’s faith was very important to her, and her husband, being a pastor, I’m sure was encouraged by her faith—as most likely were you family members too.

Because Eveline was a person of faith, I’m sure the following words of Isaiah 25:6-9 also apply to her now, as she has gone ahead of us to be with her Lord.

The prophet writes these wonderful words: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Death and the celebration of the final victory over death—that is what the prophet Isaiah proclaims in this passage. His message is one of celebration, hope and comfort. Isaiah reassures his people and all of us here today that we don’t have to be afraid of death, God will destroy death forever.

In verse six, Isaiah pictures all peoples gathering on Mount Zion in the new Jerusalem, where God will act as a host and a chef. God will prepare a huge banquet-feast. In this feast you will not have to worry about diet restrictions or things like diabetes, high cholesterol, or gluten-free foods. Rather, you will be able to eat every food because it is the LORD who will prepare it and he will serve only what is healthy for everyone. So this huge banquet-feast will be absolutely delicious—everyone will enjoy their favourite foods, and there will be such an abundance, enough for everybody.

So the picture of this banquet-feast is one of joy and celebration. Isaiah tells us the reason for such a huge celebration. God will destroy death by swallowing it up forever. No more death.

Once death is destroyed by being swallowed up forever, Isaiah tells his people and us: “Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth.” In other words, once death is gone forever there will be no more reason for sadness, crying and grief. God will wipe away the tears from all faces like a loving parent wipes away the tears from their crying child to comfort and reassure them. In this act of God wiping away everyone’s tears we have a picture of God as a tender, loving parent.

So, we wait for the future time with hope, trusting that God is going to do what these words of Isaiah promise he will do. God is in control of your future, my future, and everyone’s future. Eveline knew that, and I pray that you do too. Amen.

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Historic votes, Lutherans elect two African-American women bishops

A synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made history Saturday (May 5) by electing the denomination’s first female African-American bishop. One day later, a synod 900 miles away elected the second.

First, delegates chose the Rev. Patricia A. Davenport for the office of bishop in Southeastern Pennsylvania, a synod that includes Philadelphia. Then on Sunday, delegates voted for the Rev. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, a pastor in Beloit, Wis., to become bishop-elect for the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin.

Read the whole article here.

Book Review: How to Keep a Spiritual Journal

How to Keep a Spiritual Journal: A Guide to Journal Keeping for Inner Growth and Personal Discovery Revised Edition

Author: Ron Klug

Publisher: Minneapolis: Augsburg

143 pages, ISBN: 0-8066-4357-9

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

When one begins to undertake something new, often the most helpful teachers are those who practice what they teach. At the time of publishing this work, Ron Klug was a freelance writer and editor in Amery, Wisconsin. As one who has kept a journal for many years, he is definitely a “go to” teacher on journal writing, and this is a most practical and helpful guidebook.

There are plenty of gems of wisdom in this volume, which consists of thirteen chapters, plus a “Guide for Forming a Journal Group,” and a very helpful annotated “For Further Reading” list.

In this review, to draw readers’ interest, I’m going to share a few quotations, which hopefully inspire some to pursue journal writing.

In chapter one, “Why Keep A Spiritual Journal,” Klug states: “If the Christian path is one of grace, what is the place of self-discipline in spiritual growth? Our disciplines—things like fasting, prayer, contemplation, and journaling—are a response to grace, not an alternative to it. They are a way of being open before God, of giving the Spirit a chance to work in us.” (p. 10)

In chapter two, titled, “Experiencing the Benefits of a Spiritual Journal,” Klug shares ten of them, and then adds other uses as well. The ten are: i) growth in self-understanding, ii) an aid to caring for your soul, iii) guidance and decision making, iv) making sense and order of life, v) releasing emotions and gaining perspective, vi) greater awareness of daily life, vii) self-expression and creativity, viii) clarifying what you believe, ix) setting goals and managing your time, x) working through problems. According to Klug: “Journal writing is an antidote to “spiritual sleepwalking.” It can aid us in that basic Christian discipline of wakefulness.” (p. 20)

In chapter three, the author suggests all kinds of practical tips on “Getting Started.” For example, some people may choose to keep only one journal and write about every aspect of life in it; whereas others find it helpful to keep a variety of journals on books, family, dreams, work, nature, projects, and so on. He offers some tips on the how, when and where to write, and even on how much to write.

In chapter four, “The Daily Record,” Klug covers seventeen areas for journaling: i) personal events, ii) reactions to events, iii) conversations, iv) prayers, v) questions, vi) memories, vii) insights, viii) joys, ix) gratitude journal, x) achievements and failures, xi) world events, xii) your reading, xiii) quotations, xiv) letters, xv) travel, xvi) observations of nature, xvii other materials like drawings clippings, photos. I fully agree with his emphasis on joy: “Remembering your joys helps you focus on the good life and helps keep you in a positive attitude. It’s a good antidote to self-pity and depression.” (p. 44)

In chapter five, “Maintaining Momentum,” the author offers this word of advice: “In my view, there is one cardinal rule about keeping a journal: There are no rules for keeping a journal! Your way is the right way.” (p. 55) I would edit that last sentence like this: “Your way is the right way for you.” Hence it may not be the right way for me.

I hope these quotes have given you enough curiosity and inspiration to check out this volume yourself and consider writing a journal if you haven’t already. I have kept a journal for many years, and this resource has proven an inspiration in that it has reinforced some of my journal writing habits, and opened up other possibilities for the future.

One final, more lengthy quote, I think, is where a lot of people live these days, and an encouragement to write a journal: “Although a few people are inclined to be overly introspective, most of us have the opposite problem. In our overly busy society, when we are pulled in many directions and there are many demands on our time, our problem is not that we think too much. Our problem is that we are too busy to think at all. This is one reason why a journal can be such a helpful practice.” (p. 120)

Highly recommended—five out of five stars.

 

Book Review: Finding God At Harvard: Spiritual Journeys Of Thinking Christians

Finding God At Harvard: Spiritual Journeys Of Thinking Christians

Author: Kelly Monroe Kullberg, Editor

Publisher: Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

360 pages + Index, ISBN: 0-310-21922-1

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Editor, Kelly Monroe Kullberg, served Harvard graduate students as a chaplain and started the Harvard Veritas Forum, which inspired the publication of this volume.

The work contains ten chapters and a concluding Epilogue: A Taste of New Wine. Each of the chapters addresses a particular subject and is written by students and professors studying or teaching in that field. The format of each chapter is as follows: A list of authors and titles of each essay in the chapter, one or more quotations complementing the chapter’s subject matter, a brief introduction to each author, followed by his or her essay.

The wide array of subjects and authors makes for an interesting, informative and, on occasion, inspiring read. Although most of the authors either attended or taught at Harvard, not everyone did—for example; two of the most prophetic and challenging essays are by Mother Teresa and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn’s was an address he gave at Harvard in 1978; the year Harvard awarded him a doctorate in literature. Here are a couple of quotes, the first one is a sober reminder that freedom is not always what it seems on the surface: “Mere freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life—and it even adds a number of new ones.” (p. 99) The second one takes aim at the consequences of the West’s emphasis on human rights: “The West has succeeded in truly enforcing human rights, but our sense of responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer and dimmer.” (p. 100) Mother Teresa addressed the 1982 Class Day exercises at Harvard College. One of the most inspiring quotes in this volume is by Mother Teresa on love: “For God, it is not how much we give but how much love we put in the giving. That love begins at home, right here.” (p. 317)

To further the interest of would-be readers of this work, here are a few more quotes from various authors: In “My Search for the Historical Jesus,” Todd Lake makes an excellent point concerning an historically erroneous statement in the Koran concerning the crucifixion of Jesus: “The fourth sura of the Koran, for example, suggests that someone else was crucified in Jesus’ stead. However, this conjecture was written six centuries after the eyewitness accounts in the four Gospels, much too late to have any historical value.” (p. 45)

In an excellent essay by a seasoned professor of medicine at Harvard, Armand Nicholi Jr., “Hope in a Secular Age,” the author cites several research projects of depressed open-heart patients and their either high likelihood of not surviving or the more lengthy recovery period than those who have hope. “A noted physiologist, Dr. Harold G. Wolf, writes: “Hope, like faith and a purpose in life is medicinal. This is not a statement of belief but a conclusion proved by meticulously controlled scientific experiments.” (p. 118) As a chaplain and pastor, I definitely agree with this conclusion.

Ruth Goodwin, after seeing the magnitude of human suffering in Ethiopia, in her essay, “In Sorrow, Joy,” writes: “I became angry. I became angry because only a few care enough about the suffering of others for it to make a difference in their lives. Some appreciate the agony and injustice many have to endure in this world; few act to change it.” (pp. 220-221) However, she eventually realized that life cannot be motivated by anger; rather, it is Christ’s love that gives life and heals. “I am no longer angry, but I still grieve over suffering and injustice. I now know, however, that it is only love which will ultimately overcome it.” (p. 221)

Elizabeth Dole, reflecting on the life and purpose of Esther’s divine calling, in her essay, “Crisis and Faith,” finds instructive parallels in her life: “Yes, the story of Esther is actually a story of dependence. It is a story not about the triumph of a man or a woman but the triumph of God. He is the real hero of this story. And in the same way, I have come to realize there can be only one hero in my story, too: God in Jesus Christ.” (p. 243)

In her “Epilogue: A Taste Of New Wine,” editor Kelly Monroe Kullberg provides an outline of the origins of this volume as well as that of “The Harvard Veritas Forum,” and the struggles on her own journey of faith in the Harvard Divinity School. “Ironically, all seemed tolerated except that for which Harvard College was founded—Truth for Christ and the Church.” (p. 248) Christians are definitely up for the challenge, and can survive and thrive in an intellectual environment like Harvard.

I recommend this volume as a worthwhile read for atheists, agnostics, seekers and people of faith. By way of one wee closing critique, I don’t know who decided or how the process worked in deciding the title of this book—however I adamantly disagree with it. God is The One who finds us, not the other way round!

 

 

Today-January 27, 2018 is Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem, Israel

I took this photo in 2014, when we visited this museum. It was a most moving and informative experience.

Today is Yom HaShoah-Holocaust Remembrance Day. A day to remember the millions of Jewish people across Europe who perished in the concentration camps of the Nazis. A day to listen to those survivors who are still bearing witness to their experiences in the face of the evils of the Shoah. A day to strengthen our resolve to end all hatred and anti-Semitism. A day to realize that no matter what colour our skin may be, what country we were born in and now live in, what language we speak, God is the Creator of us all, loves us all, and in response to this love, calls and gifts us to love one another. A day to pray to God to help us all to continue to grow in this love in thought, word and action.

If there is a Holocaust Remembrance Day Service or event in your community, I encourage you to attend.

Christmas and New Year Greetings

Last night we had the privilege of attending G.F. Handel’s Messiah, with members of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra and the Rosa Barocca – Chorus & Baroque Orchestra, directed and conducted by Claude Lapalme. The Peter and Jeanne Lougheed Performing Arts Centre concert hall was filled to capacity—and for good reason, almost three hours of ‘heaven on earth’ music, celebrating the Incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

I have seen Handel’s Messiah several times, and heard it on record, cassette and CD a host of times—yet I never get bored or tired of it. There’s always something beautiful about it that so movingly proclaims ‘the holy’ and fills one for an all-too-brief time with the joy, love and peace of God in the midst of a troubled and all-too-often evil world that would rob us of every God-given gift. I wonder what would happen if every human being in this world—regardless of how well or how poor they could sing or play—would sing and play Handel’s Messiah together, if the intercession in the Lord’s Prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven,” would become more incarnate in and through the music to such a profound extent that all hatred, terrorism and war would vanish forever.

This time round, Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter nine, verse six, keeps playing in my head: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.” (NRSV) He is the one who is coming to set all things, all peoples, right with the world.

Here is Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra with the Tenebrae Choir. I love some of the expressions on Colin’s face, he seems captivated by the joy of this marvelous music.

Wishing all of you, my readers, a very blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!

Brief Book Review: The Faces Of Jesus

The Faces Of Jesus: A Life Story

Author: Frederick Buechner

Publisher: Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press

97 pages + Introduction, ISBN: 1-55725-455-9, Hardcover

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 

Frederick Buechner is an ordained Presbyterian minister and, over the years, has become somewhat of a popular and prolific author of both fiction and non-fiction works.

This little volume is divided into six chapters in addition to the Introduction: 1 Annunciation, 2 Nativity, 3 Ministry, 4 Last Supper, 5 Crucifixion, and 6 Resurrection.

Buechner—in this reviewer’s humble opinion—has the gift of attention grabbing turns-of-phrase that surprise and inspire the reader. Sometimes these turns-of-phrase have the capacity to confront readers with the foreboding judgment of God and the all-encompassing grace of God that are able to make readers laugh and cry—perhaps at the same time. Such is the brilliance of Buechner. Here are a few examples:

When you think the world is on fire, you don’t take time out to do a thumbnail sketch. Nobody tells us what he looked like, yet of course the New Testament itself is what he looked like…(p. ix).

If he [Jesus] is the Savior of the world as his followers believe, there never has been nor ever will be a world without salvation (p. 4).

It is no wonder that from the very start of his ministry the forces of Jewish morality and of Roman law were both out to get him because to him the only morality that mattered was the one that sprang from the forgiven heart like fruit from the well-watered tree, and the only law he acknowledged as ultimate was the law of love (p. 42).

God makes his saints out of fools and sinners because there is nothing much else to make them out of. God makes his Messiah out of a fierce and fiercely gentle man who spills himself out, his very flesh and blood, as though it is only a loaf of bread and a cup of sweet red wine that he is spilling (p. 59).

If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party (p. 61).

He could be Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima, who said, “Fathers and teachers, I ponder, ‘What is hell?’ I maintain that hell is the suffering of being unable to love” (p. 65).

If ever there should turn out unbelievably to be a God of love willing to search for men [and women] even in the depths of evil and pain, the face of Jesus is the face we would know him by (p. 79).

Thus for Jesus the only distinction among people that ultimately matters seems to be not whether they are churchgoers or non-churchgoers, Catholics or Protestants, Muslims or Jews, but do they or do they not love—love not in the sense of an emotion so much as in the sense of an act of the will, the loving act of willing another’s good even, if need arise, at the expense of their own (p. 91).

This is a powerful little volume, and I hope it will be regarded as a spiritual classic for many years to come. Highly recommended.