I sat in stunned silence on Monday evening staring at the screen of my Blackberry which displayed the text message from Carol Leichter informing me of the tragic death of Carol Norris’ grandson, two year old Malcolm Norris. Malcolm died at Children’s Hospital after being run over in the driveway of his Antioch home by a truck his father was driving. It took a few minutes before I could summon the strength even to respond to Carol L.’s text asking for a little more information. It took several more moments to summon the strength to pick up the phone and call Carol N. I had no words. All I could say is something like “I am sorry, so sorry. My heart is breaking. You are in my prayers. You will soon be in the prayers of the congregation. If there is anything anyone can do let me know. I will call you again tomorrow. Lord have mercy.”
I had hoped to write a cheery New Year’s greeting today. I can’t find such a greeting within myself. I have found some solace in these words from a sermon titled “The Arms We Can’t Fall Through” which my mentor, John Townsend, preached in November. I share them with you in the hope that they will help us all as we respond to Carol and her family and as we say goodbye to 2011 and welcome the arrival of 2012.
“It is not too much to say that self-confidence, serenity and purpose all result from placing our trust in the sustaining help of God. Indeed, things around us and even we ourselves may have the awful feeling of falling; like those women at Jesus’ tomb, we may be overwhelmingly afraid. But in that very moment of crisis – and at every experience of our lives, repeatedly let these words be heard: “The eternal God is our dwelling-place and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ My friends, those truly are the arms we can’t fall through; yes, the arms of God we can never fall through. Amen.”
May our prayer for Carol and family, for Shirley Jones (continuing to recuperate at Alta Bates Hospital), for Felicia Bock (home after being in Eden Hospital), for all who mourn, for all who yearn for better health and a better world and for all who who are trusting that the year ahead will be better than the year gone by be this: “So often, so often dear God it seems like we are falling. So often it seems we are falling through the cracks, falling apart, falling into a place we do not want to be. Teach us, remind us, show us that when we do fall we cannot fall through your arms. We find this promise so hard to believe, yet we so desperatley need it to be true. Thus, we offer our humble So Be It, our humble Amen, our humble words of trust as the old year ends and the new one begins.”
Our 2011-12 Minister In Training, Michael Sumrall, will be preaching this Sunday, January 1. If you are able, please support him with your presence. His sermon will be “A Gift To the Angels.”