Daily Word of Grace # 47 (May 20, 2020)
One of the hardest sermons I have ever had to preach was at the funeral of a seventeen year old boy many years ago. He was funny, athletic, smart, and had lots of friends—but the cancer with which he was repeatedly stricken ultimately proved too much for him. During his final few months we spent a lot of time together—talking, watching funny movies, and eating (way too much) ice cream. The afternoon when his family and I gathered around his death bed a few days before he passed is one I will never forget, not only because it was so heartbreaking but also because what he did in that moment was thank us for all we meant to him, thank us for our love for him and presence with him. After his funeral his mother came to my office and tearfully hand delivered a note he had written me. Guess what kind of note it was? Yes, a thank-you note. Even as this boy was dying of cancer he was telling those he loved how thankful he was for them. Even as he was dying of cancer he was writing thank-you notes, with squiggly erratic cursive because he could no longer hold his hand still as he wrote. I have never forgotten that. Scripture exhorts us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This goes way past having a positive attitude or maintaining an optimistic outlook because giving thanks “in all circumstances” reminds us that at the end of the day every positive thing we experience is ultimately a gift. This is why one of the key parts of the service for Holy Communion is literally called “The Great Thanksgiving” (The Book of Common Prayer 361). No matter what, even in the face of death, we still have much for which to be thankful to God—especially the unconditional love given us in Jesus Christ, a love that is stronger than cancer, stronger than death.
Love and Prayers,