Thursday, November 14, 2013

Funeral Sermon for a Friend

So, last week I was drinking bitter beers for my bitter mood over the death of a friend.  I was honored to preach and preside at her funeral.  It was a testament to her love for this community that over 275 people showed up to her funeral.  It was a  particular challenge to preach this funeral because I needed to personally grieve, but also not make it about me.  When I sat down to write, I stared at the screen for a long time.  I didn't know what to say.  Finally, I realized that I could only tell what I knew.  Below is the text of this sermon, interspersed with the Beers I am drinking today at my watering hole. The Gospel Passage was John 6:37-40.

“This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” [John 6:40]

I speak with you in the name of God who will never lose us, never let us go, and never forget us. Amen!

So, I woke up every morning of the last week to a world without Chrissy Simmons in it. I don’t know how that is possible. How does the earth literally keep moving without Chrissy’s sheer force of will driving it ever forward? I don’t know the answer to that question, and I don’t know if I ever will. But I want to tell you somethings I do know.

I know that Chrissy was loyal. She was loyal to Carl, loyal to this congregation, and above all a loyal faithful servant of God. There are few people whose life touched as many people as Chrissy’s. You just have to look at this packed room and know that she touched a lot of hearts. She did this not through power or position; rather through service. She truly loved her neighbor as herself, and she did it to a degree to which few can compare. 

Time for a beer break:

This is the 2011 Imperial Russian Stout from Stone Brewing.  It is fantastic!!! There is little bit of spice up front, but it is malty smooth almost like a milk shake. The flavor is rich but balanced with a clean finish.  Even though it is 10% ABV the alcohol is not overpowering.  
Back to the Sermon:  

I also know for sure that I was a little afraid of Chrissy. She was, most likely, the most intense person I have ever met. She was passionate. She felt nothing lightly, every emotion was intense, every opinion strongly held, and she shared her opinions and emotions with everyone. She quite possibly was more intense than another Matriarch of this Congregation who I loved deeply and was also a little afraid, Mrs. Lorraine Sailes.

Most importantly, I know that God loses nothing. Chrissy is most certainly caught up in the risen life of Christ today. She is most certainly a driving force of the Kingdom of God this day, and she is most certainly raising Cain with Mrs. Lorraine over the heavenly potluck.

But where does that leave all of us? While we most certainly rejoice that Chrissy is caught up in God, we are left with a gaping painful wound as well. What will we ever do without her?

Time for one more Beer before I answer that...

This is the Jubelale from Deschutes Brewing.  It is a little hoppy with medium body.  Interestingly enough there is almost a celery aftetaste.  The aroma is really light.  All in all its a good beer, but not my favorite holiday beer.

Alright, time to finish the sermon:
  This question leads me to what I know next. No one person can ever replace Chrissy, in our hearts, in our community, and in our life together. However, I have an idea, and I think it is important. No single one of us could do it alone. It will take all of us together. What if we all let our light shine just a bit brighter today? What if we all loved a little more today? What if we made our loved ones smile one extra time or laugh at one more joke? What if we made a stranger smile one extra time or laugh at one more joke? What if we all served our neighbors, this congregation, and our community just a little more. Maybe....just maybe...if we all do this together then we can approach, maybe even come near, the amount of Light and Joy that left us last week. 

Finally, I know this without a shadow of doubt, if we don’t try our very best--I mean our absolute very very best--you better believe Chrissy will have something to say about it. Amen!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bitter Beers, Dark Beers, Comfort in a Glass (to the tune of Soft Kitty)

My apologies for not blogging more lately, but life happens.  I made it out to my watering hole this week, and finally found an IPA that I could swallow (forgive the pun).  I know IPAs are REALLY trendy at the moment, but I don't like them.  I keep trying them every now and again, because folks just keep raving about hops.  The problem is that when I pick one up to drink, they generally smell like feet then taste worse.  I have probably tried fifty IPAs in the last year with the same reaction.  Except this week I tried the Mountain Standard Time, Double Black IPA from O'Dell Brewing company.  As you can see, it is a beautiful dark beer with a light tan head.  The aroma doesn't reak of gym socks so we were off to a good start.

Now truth be told, this beer still leads with bitter.  There are a lot of hops in this sucker, but bitter isn't the only flavor.  There is a depth to it with hints of carmel and a smoothness that buffs off the rough edges of the hops. 

Maybe it was because I was in a bitter mood (more on that later) but I liked it enough to drink a whole glass of it.  I can't say that about any other IPA I have tried.

I also had Lucky Bucket's Certified Evil (did I mention I was in a dark mood, no pun intended).   This is a fine beer.  It is both smooth and strong, like me.  The flavor is rich and well balanced.  Lucky Bucket blends some Certified Evil aged in Cabernet barrels with some aged in oak barrels. There is a hint of bitterness just to remind you there are hops in here too, but the oak and Cabernet aging give it a rich, hearty flavor.  Plus, since I am such a loyal patron of my watering hole, they gave me not one but two of these commemorative glasses from their Halloween Party.

I also tried this new beer from Guinness last night at home. We might have lit the grill for the last time this season; so it seemed fitting to open a harvest themed beer to go along with the burgers and sausages. Now Guinness claims this beer is different. I couldn't really tell. It tastes like Guinness, which is by no means a bad thing. However, the only difference I noticed was that it was a bit thinner than a regular Guinness. That might make it more drinkable for those few who find Guinness to be too thick for their tastes.

So why the tendency toward dark and bitter beers this week? Because a pillar of my congregation died suddenly this week. She was young, only in her mid-forties, and collapsed out of the blue Tuesday night. She was one of the most loyal, dedicated, talented people I have ever known. A gifted baker and cook she expressed her love for people through food. Her carrot cake is the only carrot cake I ever enjoyed, but her chocolate mocha cake with peanut butter frosting was a religious experience. It preached! One bite of that and you would give your heart to Jesus all over again. She was also a musician, with a fine voice. Over the last year she had begun taking voice lessons and her tone had acquired a new depth and richness that was capable of lifting our hearts to heaven. In a couple of hours the congregation will gather for our 'regular' Sunday worship. It will be the first time we are gathered without her, and it will be hard.  We will grieve. We will also take heart in the promise of Resurrection.  Rest in peace and rise in glory Chrissy Simmons.  We will miss you.