Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
What can I say? I doubt if anyone wants to hear about all the Evil and Badness in our world today. I bet we’ve all had about enough of hearing about all that. Instead, I’d like to turn to these words from our Second Reading from Romans this morning: Let Love be Genuine.
When I first moved to the Harbor in 1994, I did so under protest. My parents had moved to Westport in 1991 from Spokane, 400 miles from their only child and ultimate caregiver. Then one health related thing after another happened. My mother had a stroke, leaving her disabled. My father had to have open heart surgery, and then was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
I did not want to move from Spokane. I loved my job, my house, my church, my friends, the weather, and my outdoor life style. I loved every aspect of living there except being so far from my parents.
I kept asking God to find a way to not move, but one door after another slammed in my face, and the doors I really didn’t want to open, swung wide. I was not a happy camper.
Reluctantly, in August of 1994, I resigned from my job with Indian Health Service. My son Geoff, who had graduated in June, and I packed up our house and cat and moved to Westport. This was a leap of faith for me, because I had no job.
Soon after arriving in Westport, I started applying for jobs. I signed up as a substitute teacher, and applied for a youth Social Worker position with ESD 113. One day, I got a call and had an interview for the Youth position, but didn’t hear back from them so I figured I didn’t get the job.
My mother continued to live at Pacific Care Center since we couldn’t properly care for her at home and my dad continued first with chemo and then radiation. Geoff started college at Grays Harbor College and after school started, I was subbing all over the place. It was not an easy time. I thought life as I knew it was over. Until, this priest and congregation came into the picture.
“Rejoice in Hope.”
We had always attended St. Christopher’s Episcopal church while vacationing at our shelter in Grayland. It had always been a warm and inspiring place to worship.
After a particularly hard week, I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night with a gentle, but firm voice saying, go to Church tomorrow. So I did.
“Let Love be Genuine.”
The minute I opened the red door of St. Christopher’s, I was welcomed with such genuine and real love. Diana Woods, squeezed me with her famous tight close hug. Linda and Judy were equally as loving. In fact, everyone in that small mission parish were so openly accepting to this newcomer. I had arrived home.
Diana spent hours with me, helping me grieve and process what was happening to my parents. She held me while I cried and tried to reason why all this was happening. She “contributed to the needs of the saints; and extended hospitality to this stranger”.
My dad was dying. He was being consumed by cancer. The most evil of evil. I just wanted to be mad. Mad at everyone and everything. But the beautiful people at St. Christopher’s opened new doors for me, and slowly, I joined the community of these giving people.
In October, just as my dad had finished his radiation and we joined the Hospice process, I got a call. The Youth Social Worker job was mine if I wanted it. How could I take it, knowing my dad would need so much.
Again, I turned to Diana for direction and discernment. Then the Christian Soldiers of the Westport community swarmed in to help. They surrounded us with food, prayers, comfort, sitting with my dad, the VFW came in and disassembled my parents’ bed and replaced it with a hospital bed.
After a few days at my new job, I sat down with my boss and told him what was happening. His response was so overwhelming. He said he had already talked to his boss, and they both agreed that they wanted me to work for them. They understood that I had no sick leave, but that I could take all the paid time off I needed. Again, I say, Let Love be Genuine.
My dear family friend Anne, came to my rescue. Her husband and my dad had been good friends and work partners. Anne dropped what she was doing, and immediately came to help care for my dad and me.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”.
My dad made his journey home on a beautiful October morning. The sun was shining and the cat was by his side. He was going home.
But the story didn’t end there. It was because of the evil cancer that I moved to Westport. If I hadn’t have moved to Westport and joined St. Christopher’s, I would have never been led into the Ministry of the Baptized.
This ministry has changed my life forever. Diana and all the folks at St. Christopher taught me so much. They walked their ministry. They were genuine in their love. They gave selflessly to each other and to the community, even when those in the Westport community were not so keen about our doings. Their door was always open to anyone who wandered in. They were not so proud as to drop what they were doing and put together a food basket for someone in need. They fed me when I was hungry, gave me drink when I was thirsty, and they gave me a safe place to land when I needed it because they “love one another with mutual affection”.
There is so much and too much evil in the world today. God calls us to not join the evilness, but instead to do what is good. Love one another. Support one another. Rejoice in Hope. Be patient when bad things happen to us. Always pray. And above all, Let love be Genuine in your heart, and in your mind and in your soul.