Sermon – June 1, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Harrodsburg
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings…. 1 Peter 4:12-13
Please be seated.
At the beginning of the year, finding a room at St. Agnes’ House was difficult. You see, Ronald McDonald House had closed for a major renovation. Many people who would otherwise have stayed there, were coming to St. Agnes’ House, especially couples with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU. Many times, these couples needed to stay 2-3 months, so the now-typical St. Agnes’ House lodger – coming for surgery and staying a few days to a week – had a hard time finding a place to stay.
We had a waiting list and when rooms opened up, we’d begin calling people on the list. Believe me, it was so hard to know people were sleeping in their cars and in the waiting rooms of hospitals.
One of our lodgers, I’ll call her Mary, was staying at St. Agnes’ House because her brother was in the ICU, with a number of health issues. Mary was a tall woman, in her 50’s with long, long deep black hair with some gray streaks. Mary’s brother’s prognosis was not very good. Mary so appreciated St. Agnes’ House. She had her own room where she could get a good night’s sleep. She didn’t have to sleep in the waiting room. She could get away from the ICU hospital section for a break – some coffee and tea and Starbucks cakes donations. She could speak to others if she wanted. She knew we were praying for her brother and for the family during this time. The shuttle from UK came to pick her up and take her back and forth from St. Agnes’ House to the hospital.
Mary was so grateful, that she’d take St. Agnes’ House brochures to the ICU waiting room and when she saw people who looked tired… people who were there day after day after day, just like her, she’d talk to them and tell them to call St. Agnes’ House and see if they could find lodging.
One of the people Mary saw day after day was Laura. Laura is a short, thin woman in her late 50s. She has short, brown hair. Whenever you see Laura, you see the determination on her face and in the way she carries herself. Laura’s daughter was in the ICU. The daughter, in her late 30s, had gotten swine flu, which attacked and destroyed the daughter’s lungs. The hope was that the daughter’s lungs would eventually heal, but the outcome was not known. Laura had been at the hospital with her daughter since January. It was almost March when we were able to offer Laura a place to stay at St. Agnes’ House.
Laura is still at St. Agnes’ House today! Recently it appeared that one of her daughter’s lungs was recovering slightly, but only slightly, and the other lung is completely destroyed. Her daughter is anxious and depressed. She’s frightened to move sometimes, because breathing is so difficult. Day after day, Laura is with her daughter. Sometimes she stays at night and I’ll see her coming back to the house in the morning to get a few hours of sleep and a shower and a break. Sometimes she goes during the day. She’s rarely been back to her home. Sometimes I see her doing her laundry in our laundry room available to the guests.
Sometimes there is time to talk…to ask about how her daughter is doing…to ask about her family. Because of course, there are the family dynamics that accompany a difficult time like this. I always marvel at how Laura is there day after day for so many days with no end in sight and when I mention it to her, she says she couldn’t be anywhere else.
That’s what we hear all of the time at St. Agnes’ House. No matter the obstacles, people want and need to be with their families. There are cars in the parking lots of St. Agnes’ House that you cannot believe are on the road. Some have no cars. Parking in the garage every day becomes expensive, so our parking lot and the willingness of UK shuttle service to come to the house is a blessing. Being able to stay, means not driving back and forth from home each day. It means not having to find the money for even the most modest hotel stay. Being able to stay means having a break from the reality of the hospital…it means finding a place that is a home away from home.
Mary’s brother eventually died, but Mary was there every day with him, providing the comfort of a loving big sister. At her brother’s funeral, Mary talked about St. Agnes’ House and how important it was. Soon after the funeral, Mary sent a donation to the ministry. Laura is still at the house…still going to the hospital day after day, being there for her daughter. Holding out the hope for healing that her daughter needs.
In this passage from 1 Peter today, we hear about suffering. Now the early Christians were facing the suffering of persecution for their beliefs, which many of us in this place do not know. Yet, listen to what the writer of I Peter says, “you are sharing Christ’s suffering.” Christ suffered. God came down from heaven to live and breathe and suffer as we do. God knows. Christ knows.
The other thing this letter tells us and reminds us of…is that Christ did not suffer alone. Yes, many of the disciples and followers went into hiding when the trial and persecution of Christ was occurring, yet some stood at the foot of the cross, watching, witnessing, being there. Others came for Jesus’ body and lovingly cared for it. And the community of followers were together with each other, providing comfort and solace. Even this letter lets us know of the community of Christ that was providing support during this time of trial. Christ did not suffer alone. The community of the followers of Christ did not suffer alone.
Forty years ago, some visionary Episcopalians in the Diocese of Lexington, saw the suffering of people who needed to come to Lexington for necessary and life-saving medical care. Somehow they raised the money to fix up, add on, and build a place to relieve that suffering. And for those 40 years, through many changes in healthcare, many changes in the church, you, the people of the Diocese of Lexington, have given generously and consistently with your dollars, your time, your donations of sheets and towels, toilet paper and paper towels and prayers to relieve that suffering. In doing so, you have been Christ to the world.