TITLE: Diget’s words and God’s Word
A couple of months ago, when Diget was in the hospital, she became very frustrated as we talked because it was getting more and more difficult for her to use language. To find the right words to say what she wanted to say. And we all know that Diget always had plenty to say.
Her love of language was wonderful. Words mattered. The ideas behind the words mattered. The truth behind the words mattered. And language around faith (and its expression) mattered most of all. This love made her an inspiring asset to Bible studies she attended. And it fueled some great post-worship discussions. Words mattered so much to Diget that this entire liturgy was planned out and given to me to be used for this occasion – her going away party, as she called it. The words of this sermon are the only words that Diget did not choose and give her approval on. I better be careful, right. (Actually, that’s why I started with a reading of her words, so if I get it all wrong, at least we have heard from her.) The hymns we are singing contain the words Diget wanted us to sing and think on at this time. We will use the more contemporary translation of the Lord’s Prayer because it more accurately articulates her understanding of God and the relationship that God blesses us with.
The readings speak the truth and wisdom that she wanted us to hear. That there is a time for everything under heaven – and God knows Diget has gone through close to everything. But in these final 15 months that I have gotten to know her, these 15 difficult months, she has held on with great faith and confidence that no matter what she was going through, God has been with her. Nothing was going to separate her from the love and mercy of God. And so, like the prophet Isaiah Diget looked to God as her salvation, she trusted and was not afraid. A week before she died, we sat and talked about this night with all the calm that comes when one looks to God for strength and defense against all that threatens us, even death.
Most significant, Diget wanted us to hear again the words of Jesus that he spoke to the disciples the night before his death. Words of peace and compassion even in the midst of his own suffering. A few months back, perhaps it was the last time that Diget was present at worship for the healing rite that we include in our worship from time to time, she came forward for the laying on of hands, and as I was praying over her with my hands on her head, I paused, moved by her strength and her courage in the face of such pain and struggle, but worried for me, she opened her eyes and looked at me and said, I’m all right, encouraging me to keep going, keep talking, keep using the words of peace and promise that he had come to worship to hear. Peace and promise is what Jesus is speaking to his disciples and to us. Even in the midst of the disciples’ confusion, even in the midst of our own sorrow, words of peace and promise abound. Important words for Diget. Important words for us.
So far all this talk of love of language and the wonder of words has seemed pretty lofty and quite respectable. And I’m guessing that some of you who know Diget way better that I do are saying to yourselves “her language was not always so lofty or respectable.” But here again her language bears witness to her faith – whether she was mad at God for the burden of cancer that she was given, or whether it was her pleading in the end for God to end her suffering and take her home, Diget knew that God could handle whatever words she used.
What words are filling your thoughts and prayers this night? Are they filled with sadness or anger, perhaps a bit of both? Are there questions and doubts, demands for explanations? Perhaps what you are feeling is beyond words, has yet to find expression. Whatever words you might have for God, know, as Diget knew and lived, God can handle them. God’s love can handle them, can take in all the trouble our hearts can produce and still bring peace, mercy, love and compassion.
Because the first word and the final word belong to God. The beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. The first word of a creating God how made all things, as mysterious and confusing as they may be to us, as beyond words as it may all be, as fearful as the challenges of this creation may be, all things are God’s. So our peace is in that other first word of God’s in which we are claimed through the waters of baptism, drawn into the body of Christ – the Word of God made flesh. In Jesus we see God’s word welcoming, loving, healing, restoring, teaching of love, and calling to do the same. In God’s word made flesh we hear words of forgiveness, of compassion, of restoration. In this one who saves us, we see God’s final word – life; even in the face of death. And in this new life that is ours through Christ Jesus, we have a promise that will never end.
This is the promise-filled word of God that sustained Diget in the midst of all that she experienced, all that she expressed, all her questions, all her outbursts, all that was beyond her words. Words may have failed her, but the word of God never did.
And so we gather this night. To express our words of sadness and anger. To express our words of regret and repentance. To express our words of consolation and condolence. But we also gather to hear again God’s word of hope, of love, of peace, of life. Diget loved words. And now she rejoices without end, as the word of God that sustained her through the enormous challenges of her life, have, through Jesus Christ, become her reality. May the Holy Spirit echo these life-filled words in our hearts and minds and spirits in the days and weeks ahead, as we continue our journey, missing Diget, and leaning on the strong word of God that is ours through Jesus the Christ our Savior and Lord.
The Rev. Mark Erson,