Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Thanksgiving for the Life of Lib Tatum

Psalm 27

One thing have I desired of the Lord, we read in the psalm just a moment ago. One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will require, even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and to visit his temple.

It is difficult to imagine a house more beautiful than this one, this house of the Lord that is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The stained glass windows in which light and color dance to tell the story of Jesus Christ. The rich hangings, today in white and purple and yellow and green, that adorn the sacred places where the word of God and the body of Christ are broken open for us. The carefully and lovingly stitched needlepoint on the kneelers at the altar. The brass, curled and shaped and intricately etched as embellishment, as support, and as the cross that leads us into worship in this beautiful house of the Lord.

One thing have I desired….to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. Lib very nearly did, I’m told. For more than 80 years, she worshipped in this house. She worshipped, and she cooked, and she carried out the many ministries of the women of the church. And as a member of the altar guild, Lib tended to this house, preparing it for worship; she cared for the hangings and the brass and the needlepoint, making everything beautiful.

Yes, Lib lived, she came alive, in this house.

But throughout all those 80 years and more – indeed all the days of her life – God was also at work in her. God is at work in all of us, tending to us and making us beautiful. And through Lib, through all of us, God is at work in the world. In fact, God lived, God came alive in Jesus Christ so that we might learn from him how to care for one another, how to tend to one another, how to love one another, how to see what is beautiful in all people, in all of creation.

And just when we thought that in Jesus’ death we had seen the extent to which that care, that love, that desire to make us beautiful would go, Jesus lived. As light and color dance in the window that tells this story, so did heaven and earth dance on the day of Resurrection, because on that day Jesus lived so that we might live, so that we might truly come alive. So that we might, although we die, live forever in the house of the Lord.

Sometimes, if you look closely – sometimes if you just look – there are fingerprints on the brass. The hangings aren’t quite even. A prayerbook is out of place. Sometimes in our kitchen soup burns on the stove, and sometimes we run out of doughnuts. Sometimes our thoughts wander in worship, and sometimes we sing off key. Sometimes we are afraid, or forget, or choose not to care, to tend, to love. We can and often do hold such imperfections against ourselves and against one another. But God does not. Indeed, if we look closely – sometimes if we just look – our fingerprints and fears are the very places we can see God at work in and through us, carefully and lovingly tending to the beauty deep within.

Because of God’s work in and through Jesus Christ, we are able in this beautiful if imperfect house to catch glimpses of the house of the Lord in which Lib and all the faithful who have gone before us now live. In each other’s beautiful if imperfect lives we are able to glimpse something of the beauty of the Lord, which they now see face to face. In the places where God is at work in and through us, we are able to glimpse something of the perfection to which God has brought Lib and will bring us when we, too, are standing in God’s presence.

With the psalmist, then, let us also desire thing of the Lord, one thing which we will require: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and to visit his temple. Amen.

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