Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Sister Karen

In the run up to Christmas my little sister died.  Karen was 44 and her brave battle with cancer was over.  I want to pay tribute to Karen's love of life and family.  She expressed her emotions openly and told us she loved us.  She had a smiling determination, a love of sport, animals and the outdoors.  Her lasting friendships were obvious at her funeral when we heard from three friends from three particular stages of her life.  I particularly appreciated hearing about her high school years, which were largely unknown to me having left home for University by then.  I also want to pay tribute to Karen's husband Dallas who cared for Karen so faithfully and well right through her many health struggles. 

My family and I have so appreciated the support of friends, family and our church family at East Taieri.  It has drawn us closer to people here.  As I said one Sunday morning, in a church the size of ET, some people won't have known that a sister, let alone that she had cancer.  That is completely understandable.  The wonderful thing is that some people knew, and those who were close to us have been incredibly thoughtful and supportive, especially elders and the ministry team, and those I work most closely with.  Thank you everyone.

I have taken many, many funerals in my 20 years as a pastor, and sat with many grieving people.  I'm reminded again how true it is that comfort came from people who managed to say a few halting words of sympathy or write a simple card.  It wasn't their profound words, but their love and care that counted.

It isn't easy for me to speak about the trials we face.  It makes me vulnerable.  In this case, the vulnerability led to people being able to care for us.  Keeping a "stiff upper lip" and not saying anything would have shut people out and kept the relationships shallow.  Have you had an experience of being vulnerable leading to deeper relationships?

This time has also reminded me that the message of the resurrection is amazing and full of hope.  I know this in my head, and preach it from the scriptures, but I've been reminded of the importance of the resurrection by seeing Karen's body waste away.

"Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands... Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."  2 Cor 4:16ff

I have preached from these verses in the last week at a dear saints funeral.  I think I'm more motivated to share the good news of Jesus than I have ever been!

God bless you,