Thursday, March 08, 2007

Do Not Be Afraid

Tonight I will give a short homily for the annual Memorial Service at Baptist Hospital for our volunteers who have died this year. Many of them have served the hospital for many years. Today also marks the death of one of my friends who died a few yards from where I now sit. Here is the scripture passage and my homily. The last quotation of the homily is the chorus to the song that the congregation will sing immediately after the homily.

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Isaiah 43.1-2, 5-7, But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you… Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’”

Do not be afraid. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you go through deep waters . . . We are here this evening because we have seen the deep water. When you go through the deep waters . . . I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty . . . We are here this evening because we've seen some difficult rivers . . . you will not drown, don't be afraid, I will be with you.

So many of our volunteers come to our hospital because they love this place. We love Baptist Hospital. We love the people here. Our friends are here. This has become a second home -- and we are like a second family -- the family of Baptist Hospital. Take a look around this room. Look who's here -- our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our nephews and nieces. Sometimes we bicker like a family, don't we? But here we are! If you were to hand-pick the people you would want to work with -- would you hand pick these people? Probably not. You know, I wouldn't have chosen a bull-riding redneck living in rural Tennessee to be my little brother. But I love him just the same and I know that he loves me. That's how it is with family. I wouldn't have picked him, but on Christmas day, I don't want to sit next to anyone else but him.

So many of our volunteers come back to our hospital when they're sick. It's a great testament to the level of care Baptist Hospital provides. It's one thing to work in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant. It's another thing to eat at that restaurant after you've seen the messes in the back. And a hospital is not like a restaurant exactly. Poor care at a hospital is more significant than simply a fly in your soup. I've visited many volunteers of our hospital when they become our patients, when they put their lives in our hands. So have you, haven't you? You've seen them -- maybe you've been seen by others who visit you in one of the rooms here. Family members stop by for a visit -- brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces of Baptist Hospital who stop by to check on each other when they're sick. That's how family works, doesn't it.

So many of our volunteers have served our hospital for years and are taken from us. Some are taken suddenly and we can hardly believe it. Some are taken slowly, an agonizing inch at a time. Well, that's what brings us here this evening. We are here to remember our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our nephews and nieces -- here at Baptist Hospital. They worked side-by-side with us. Things are not the same without them.

We are reminded this evening that some of the rivers of life are difficult and dangerous . . . but I am with you, don't be afraid. You may walk through the fire . . . but the flames will not consume you, because I am with you, don't be afraid. Some of the waters of life are deep, very deep . . . but when you go through them, I will be with you, don't be afraid.

We trust that God will, one day, bring us back together -- from east and west, from north and south, from the distant corners of the world. He will one day, call us by name and take us home -- home to be with our family again. He says to us this evening, "Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine."

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3 Comments:

Blogger Berkeley Rican said...

i just found out my boss wants me to attend the pro chaplain conference in San Francisco. So maybe we'll get to hang out even more than we thoguht - j

9:42 PM, March 13, 2007  
Blogger Marquito said...

Very profound and timely.

7:05 AM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger W Sofield said...

Thanks, marquito. Glad to help.

berkeley rican -- good to see you yesterday, my friend. look forward to seeing you at the conference.

8:53 AM, March 19, 2007  

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