Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blessed Fingers

Blessed Fingers
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
February 23, 2014
for the funeral of Joan Bomar
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
Isaiah 38: 19-20

Let us pray, 
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives
            For your eyes show the way
            Your mind knows the truth
            Your being is the life.
For we are grieving Lord and need your presence.

19     The living, the living, they thank you,
as I do this day;
fathers make known to children
your faithfulness.
20     The Lord will save me,
and we will sing to stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
at the house of the Lord. [1]

All of us in this room were touched by the life of our beloved Joan. She is one of those people who make an impact. To know Joan is to know what I mean. I, I expect, unlike most of you, only was blessed to know Joan for the last 5 years, but even in that small amount of time, she made an impact. . . It's just what she does, it's who she was, who God made her to be. My wife and I will both admit that she is the reason that I stand before you now as the pastor of this church. She wasn't on the pastoral nominating committee, I don't mean that, what I mean is she was the glue, the magnet, the person who first made us want to keep coming back here, when we were newlyweds, and new visitors, my wife who had just left a job as an organist to follow me a teacher and recent seminary graduate to central Virginia the foothills of the Blue Ridge. The first time she called me sugar, I was done. I was hers, my life was made better. Again Joan being Joan.
She had been such a staple, a pillar of this church for so long, that it was hard to imagine what it would be like to not have her here  each week. And in the last few years when she could only rarely be here, there was a tangible energy anytime she entered the room, any time she came you could tell. She lit everyone up warming our hearts. And no it wasn't just because the heat was on way too high for her. Honey, I tell you, it is hot as can be in here, too hot for this old lady. I tell you that much. She was great for a young new preacher because even in a Presbyterian Church she'd give an audible uhmmm hmmm, or give a soft Amen, a Presbyterian Amen, but you heard it and it mattered, it was small but it made a difference. Again that's Joan.
We bonded more than anything because of our shared love for music. And since I married an organist myself, you know it means alot, but she was always so humble. I can hear her saying, "Sugar," there it is, "Sugar, I'm no organist, but I am a hymn player, and this old woman has been doing it for sometime, and I guess I do okay, I guess the Lord has use for me still." I'll say. Joan was a hymn player, and for more than 40 years she played hymns. Can you imagine with me for a second just how many hymns that old hymn player played in this very room? Can you imagine how many prayers were told to her music? Can you imagine how many times her music was the soundtrack to Communion? How many funerals did her music surround, embrace, give comfort to those mourning crying souls? If we close our eyes for a moment we may just hear her playing, what hymns does she play when you hear in your minds ear? Can you imagine how the work of her fingers and feet blessed each of us again and again, Sunday after Sunday for so long?
Those fingers taught us about Amazing Grace, with its sweet sound, taught us how to walk and talk in the garden with God and that he calls us his own, taught us about how Holy, Holy, Holy the Trinity is, that Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Alleluia, and that it is a sure foundation to be built, on that solid rock, that solid rock of ages cleft for all of us, that she taught palms in hand to sing All glory laud and honor, we can give to thee our redeemer king, shouting Hosanna, to the king of kings, that there was then, is still, and always will be a sweet sweet spirit in this place, that we should glory in the father, and to the son, and to the holy ghost, for it was in the beginning and is now and ever shall be, and so we shall praise God from whom all blessings flow, that as winter approached she shared with us a longing for Emmanuel to O Come O Come, that long expected Jesus will bring Joy to this World, because the Lord has come, with heaven and nature singing along, with herald angels, shepherds watching their flocks by night, three kings, coming faithful and triumphant, to worship Away in a manger, on a Silent and O Holy Night, in a little town of Bethlehem, where Ox and Ass are feeding. She taught us to Worship the King, to cherish a closer walk with thee, grant it Jesus was her plea, she led us to dance dance, whereever we may be, knowing that the Lord is on our Si-de, we can bear the cross of grief and pain if our souls be still, and so that it is somehow well, it is well with our souls, that All things now living are alive in thanksgiving, that we can gather together and ask the Lord's blessing, of love all loves excelling, immortal invisible, God only wise, like a shepherd lead us, All Creatures of our God and King, can lift up their voice and again sing Alleluia, Alleluia, give thanks to the risen lord, seeking first the kingdom of God and it's righteousness, for this is our father's world, and day by day and with each passing moment, we will be guided by thou Great Jehovah, that we shall enter his gates, that by lifting high the cross, we shall indeed overcome, that America is Beautiful, from sea to shining sea, that our eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord, and that the God of Our of our fathers, whose all mighty hand, is a mighty fortress, our help in ages past and our hope for years to come. She'd pray with us, playing, Precious Lord, take my hand, abide with me, quickly close the eventide, and she'd inspire each of us playing he leadeth me O blessed thought, that leaning on Jesus, and standing on the promises of God, I shall not be moved, living so God can use me, any day lord, any time. Reminding us again and again that Morning has broken, like the first morning, thou vision, and thy true word, again and again telling us that old, old story that we have loved so long. She loved to tell that story, and her song, her life, her impact is a testament to that story of Jesus and his love.
These simple truths in melodies pouring forth from Joan's fingers into our heart have carved into our souls lasting images of truth, God's love, whole, full, perfect. We'll hear them forever and think of her, her life, her love, and her witness to the truth of salvation.
I chose the passage from Isaiah for it's music of course, but also, so I could paraphrase it now:
We, the living, the living, thank you Joan,
We do, as God does, for a lifetime of faithful service
Your music making faithfulness known to all of us children.
The Lord, who saved you, from numbness and weakness, and worry, and pain, and from death,
is right now singing with you with stringed instruments, and a glorious old pump organ, that only plays hymns. . .
And will all of the days of eternity there in the house of the Lord, forever and ever. Amen.

[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Is 38:19-20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.