By Rev. Chris Jorgensen
November 7, 2021
Video of entire service: https://www.facebook.com/hanscomparkchurch/videos/1574674609538882
So how many of you sent a Thank You card this week from your Festival of Gratitude packets? Hands here? Likes online? There’s still time! There are more cards out in the foyer if you want to take them. Don’t wait to share gratitude and love with whomever you are thinking of these days.
As I thought about who I’d like to thank this week, I started thinking of people from my past, friends from different times in my life. One of those friends was Jodie. I’ve told you a little about Jodie before. She was my roommate my senior year in college. We actually didn’t know one another very well when we moved in together.
To be honest, I was kind of in awe of Jodie. Besides being a full-time college student, she had a part-time job working with adults with disabilities. She had also taken a year off from college to serve as a teacher in Zimbabwe. It seemed to me that she was always busy doing good things. I think she was student teaching our second semester when we started spending more time together.
Jodie was also a bit of a disaster. I remember one time getting into her car to go somewhere… and there was a piece of toast sitting on her dashboard. I was like, “So, Jodie, this toast on your dashboard,” and she put her head down on her steering wheel and said, “Oh, Chris, I’ve been meaning to throw that away for weeks.” Then she confessed to me that while she was doing a lot of good things, she had also been doing a lot of partying.
That’s really who Jodie was: she did really good and kind things…and she knew how to have a good time. When we graduated, we kept in touch even though she moved to the Bay Area of California. She eventually became a principal there of an alternative school for kids with behavioral issues. One fall, she asked me to come help her organize the books for her school library since I was a librarian. I knew this was mostly a ruse for us to hang out, eat amazing food and go dancing together…so I flew out to her place for a long weekend.
When I arrived, I spent most of the first day in a basement room of her school organizing all these books. At the end of the day, Jodie came to get me and was leading me through the school. At just that moment we happened upon two teachers who were having to physically restrain a student who had been acting out in class.
Jodie, of course, took this all in stride, but I was a bit unnerved by the situation. Mostly because, as I explained to Jodie later, I couldn’t understand that when the kids she worked with had such emotional and behavioral problems, how she could ever imagine them graduating from high school, getting a job, and being able to support themselves and live productive lives. Jodie simply told me that she didn’t think about that. She thought about the fact that she helped a child to become a better reader that day, or that a child had one good day with no emotional outbursts.
I was in awe of Jodie’s ability to just love and accept the students where they were at. She wasn’t worried about some future of them becoming productive citizens. She knew all she had to do was treat them with love and dignity in each moment and give thanks when things went well. Being present and treating students with great love – that was enough.
In today’s scripture, we hear about the great love of Paul for the people of Philippi. That love gives Paul so much hope – the love he has for them, the love they share with each other, the good news of God’s love that they are sharing with others. Paul believes that it is enough.
In fact, he imagines and hopes that this love will continue to flow and overflow until it produces (what he calls) a harvest of righteousness on the day of Christ. The “day of Christ”… for Paul, he means some future moment. He is talking about a restoration of all of creation at the end of all time.
Now something you should know about Philippi is that it was a small church. Most scholars believe that it never got bigger than 100 people. Yet, Paul believes that these small groups of people, simply living together in God’s love, and sharing God’s love with the world is ENOUGH. He believes, that through these small communities sharing great love, God will transform the entire world from brokenness to wholeness. For war to peace. From despair to hope. This great love Christ has for us and that we have for one another and the world is enough to change everything. That’s what Paul believes.
I didn’t send a Thank You note to my friend Jodie this week. In 2010, Jodie was diagnosed with cancer that had spread to her brain. When I found out, I made immediate plans to visit her in a few weeks. I went and bought plane tickets right away. We had BIG plans: a drive down the coast, ice cream overlooking the ocean in Monterey, staying at a Bed & Breakfast, all kinds of good food. But right before I left for my trip, Jodie’s mother contacted me to let me know that Jodie had been hospitalized again and that I should probably delay my visit until she was feeling better. Jodie died before I could see her one last time.
Now, I hesitated telling you this story today because I didn’t want to make All Saints about my person I was remembering and my story…but I do think there are some universal truths here. I’m going to give it to you straight. Two things: First, don’t wait. Don’t wait to send that Thank You note or tell someone how much you love them. Don’t wait to spend time with someone you love right now. Share your time and express your affection for them right now.
Second…while I regret not seeing Jodie that one last time, I want you to know that I have the same faith that Paul has. I believe that the love Jodie and I shared was enough. That the small, good things we were trying to do for the world and the great big love we shared between us, it was enough. Even though she is no longer with me in body, the love that we shared overflows still … in my life … and I’m sure in so many other lives that Jodie touched.
I know that’s also true of the loved one you are remembering right now. The love you share overflows right now, and God takes that love and multiplies that love, and it is ENOUGH to change the whole world.
So today, on this All Saints’ Day, I am asking you to remember and give thanks with deep love, the kind of love that breaks your heart, that brings tears to your eyes. Because that’s the kind of love that changes us as individuals…and when we share it, it changes us into the community that God dreams us to be. So that we can play our part in transforming the world.
Let’s prepare our hearts to remember and thank God for those we have loved, those who have died, and who live now in the eternity of God’s presence.
Thanks be to God.