Planted to Flourish

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14

May and June have been very emotional months for me. Sometimes it was such a roller coaster ride for me physically, emotionally and spiritually that I hardly had time to focus or process everything that was happening. I just sort of 'got through it' without much feeling or reflection.

Yet even as I went through it all, a day at a time, I know there was a part of me that was grounded or else I would not have maintained. For those who might not know, my brother died on June 7th and his wake was a week ago today in CT, followed by the funeral on Monday. (Addendum: July 22nd: in preparing this manuscript for publication on our church website, I must sadly note that his wife died 12 days later)

When I got back from my vacation at the end of May, I was here one day but then went to CT and was there a week, taking care of him for two days and then helping get him into a Hospice facility in CT where he spent the last 12 days of his life. Those were wonderful, quality days for him and for us all. Within a half hour of getting him into the facility he was no longer under stress to breathe; the extra oxygen and medications helped immediately. The next 5 days were powerful in that he was able to concen-trate on his life and relationships instead of concentrating on the struggle to breathe.

He had many great visits with friends and family and talked to his wife each day on the phone in the hospital. She herself had almost died on Mother's Day. She was in intensive care managing to breathe on her own after the ventilator was removed. She was, however, not recovering, just maintaining as different bodily systems continued to gradually shut down. She was evaluated for Hospice and was ready to be admitted to the Hospice facility. She arrived about 3 hours before my brother died. The staff immediately took his bed to her room and placed it beside hers and they held hands and she spoke to him over the last 3 hours of his life. He was not speaking at that point, nor opening his eyes, but he was conscious and responding to touch and sound.

It was a first for the staff at Hospice over all the years (over 20) that that facility has been operating. There is no way any of us could have scripted that ending to my brother's life; that he and his wife of 49 years could be together side by side as sick as they both were.

My sister-in-law continues to fail some each day. She is lucid and is having quality time with family and friends in her last days.

While I was with my brother that week before his death, he asked me if I would handle his funeral. Part of me wished he hadn't asked, but another part of me felt honored that he asked. It was the most difficult funeral that I ever put together, and the most difficult homily I had ever written.

One of our long-time members, Mary Clingan, died at noon on the 7th, and my brother that night at 9:30. I was a Mary's bedside with some of her family, all of us arriving less than five minutes after she passed. But that would have been the way she wanted it-not wanting us all standing around her, having her being the center of attention and focus in her last moments.

I left for CT after a wedding last weekend, visiting my sister-in-law first when I arrived in CT and then going directly to the funeral home for four hours of visitation for my brother. He was dearly loved by family and friends and business associates so that it was non-stop visitation for four hours. I'm grateful to friends of mine for their support as they came from Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia to the visitation and stayed for the funeral the next day. And I'm grateful to all of you for your prayers and for the many notes and cards of condolences. All so helpful and meaningful.

And, I am grateful to Pastor Fernandez for her presence here as pastor so that I could be in CT for all those important and special days leading up to my brother's death, and being there for the funeral as well.

While I was in CT, another one of our dear members, Edith Canfield, 101 years of age, died, and her funeral is tomorrow. Yesterday I presided at another wedding.

So, you see, I go back and forth emotionally, and it all seems to happen so fast that I don't have time to focus.

Yet, I know, that being grounded in my faith in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that I somehow had the strength to still be a meaningful presence.

Today's psalm is very powerful for me, as it should be for all of you as well. Verses 12-14 read, "Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God; they shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be green and succulent; that they may show how upright the Lord is, my rock, in whom there is no fault."

As Christians, we are all planted by the Lord to be witnesses to His strength in whatever befalls us. We are planted where we are needed. Every one of us. We are never somewhere where we are not planted and needed. Sometimes life comes at us so quickly and from so many angles that we don't have time to realize this. Sometimes we even feel estranged from God in the midst of one trial after another. Yet, God has planted us where we are so that we might flourish and be whom each one of us was created to be-each of us with our special gifts given to us by God to use not only for our own life, but in service to others as well.

The Psalm says that the 'righteous' shall flourish like a palm tree. The 'righteous' being those who are in a right relationship with God. That is, if we are grounded in that relationship, we will flourish even in the midst of difficult times in our lives. God will be our strength; God will be our comfort and guide and sustainer; God will be our Redeemer and Salvation that helps us rise above our challenges and not succumb to them or be oppressed by them.

It is so important for us to make sure our youth and children have that same grounding so that midst all the incredible challenges they face now and will face in days and years ahead, they will feel supported and strengthened because inwardly they are being renewed day by day. They will have their friends and family to love and support them; they will have a church family to support them in prayer and care; and they will feel strengthened and supported by their God because they are in a good relationship with God. Family and friends can often fall away (even Jesus experienced that), but God will never abandon us. God is always there for us-there for us to turn to so that we don't succumb to our life challenges or feel oppressed by them. There for us so that we can 'flourish' where we are planted because God has need for us right where we are at any moment.

May you all, each day, take time to ground yourself in your faith, in the knowledge that you are chosen by God and planted by God to flourish right where you are so that others might come to know that same relationship with God that you have-so that, like you, they might feel strengthened, supported, loved and have the promise of salvation.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie