Saturday, September 12, 2015
Gramasylum and a Funeral
I was honored that a reading club group at church chose to read my book and invited me to be their guest for their monthly discussion. The same day I ended up caring for my granddaughter so I arranged for her to be in the nursery at church while I met with the book club. As I carried her to the room she touched the necklace hanging around my neck and said, "Cece, will you tell me about this?" "This" was my cross necklace. What could I say?! What an amazing opportunity. My four year old granddaughter was asking me to tell her about the Good News of the gospel! I responded, "Lo, I would love to tell you about what this cross means!" But I was pretty close to being late for my morning book club invitation so I dropped her off at the nursery and told her that I would tell her when I got back.
I do not think LoLo knows that I am a pastor or what a pastor does. And she did not know that just a few weeks ago I had introduced a sermon about the Good News using pictures of crosses--Madonna with a big cross necklace, a convicted murderer in prison tattooed with and wearing a cross, an arch entrance made up of hundreds of wooden crosses, and my own picture wearing this same cross she was now asking about. What was the meaning of all these cross displays? Who knows?! But now my wearing a cross provided me the opportunity to tell LoLo the story of Jesus' amazing love for her. I could hardly wait.
When I picked her up at the nursery she had not forgotten and was all ears. As best I could, in four year old vocabulary (hers, by the way, is pretty incredible!) I explained to her that Jesus came to the world to tell us how much he loved us. I told her that Jesus told everyone and especially people that no one else loved. It was very hard for me to tell her that religious people (like me!) did not like it that Jesus was loving these kind of people and that they disagreed with what he told people about God. Jesus was telling people that God had sent him and that if they believed in him they would never die and that even if they did die, they would live again. It was really hard for me to tell her that religious people actually punished Jesus like a criminal. Criminals were hung on crosses to die. They hung Jesus on a cross to die. And he did. But he did not stay dead. He came alive again! And then he continued to love people and tell them that because he had died and lived again, the same would happen to them if they trusted him and believed him. I told her that I wear a cross to remind me of how much Jesus loves us. It all sounds a little crazy when you really think about it.
I told LoLo that this meant that some day she would get to meet my father, her great grandfather, the person I wrote the book about. I told her that even if Cece (that's what she calls me) dies that she will get to see me again because I believe and trust Jesus. I told her that death is hard and makes us very sad, but that Jesus said not to be afraid, because he will take care of us when we die and one day we will all be together again. LoLo said, "I trust and believe Jesus." I said, " I hope you do, Lo. And I hope you will learn more about Jesus and how to trust him as you get older."
Wow! What a holy, crazy sacred, moment. A student of Christianity for decades and an ordained pastor for twenty years and I was challenged by this request. I had read lots of books about Jesus to LoLo before. I have sung "Jesus Love Me" to her hundreds of times. But now she was asking. She was initiating the conversation. She was wanting to understand what the cross means.
Later that day I officiated at a memorial service. I had prepared a brief message based on I Thessalonians 4 where Paul explains that Christians do not grieve as others do without hope. He says that because Jesus died and rose again, we have hope and are supposed to encourage each other with this Good News. I knew I had a very mixed audience at this service and did not know many of them at all. All of a sudden I realized that LoLo's question and the answer I gave her was exactly what Paul was teaching in this passage. My four year old granddaughter became a fresh example of the message I wanted to give this family and these friends of this man who suffered and died way too soon. The meaning of the cross is the only sure and hopeful word for people facing death and loss. And explaining this to even a four year old, maybe especially to a four year old, can bring great clarity to the truth. I told those gathered for the memorial that surely my granddaughter did not fully understand the things I told her, but then, neither do any of us! But there are all sorts of things (like electricity) that I use and live by and depend on that I do not understand fully or at all. It does not make them false, or any less dependable. Such is the meaning of the cross. Crazy!
I wear my cross necklace often. I will wear it with more sense of purpose from now on. Being a grandmother and being a pastor are not all that different at the core. Being crazy in love with my grandchildren reminds me a lot of just how crazy God's love is for us. Gramasylum is a great place for a pastor to live.