Sandy Arterburn Memorial Service Remarks

I am here to honor Sandy, and I know all of you are here to do the same.

I actually never met her.

But I know something about Sandy because I love and adore her daughter Bethany.

And I know something about her because I know that Sandy and Danny were side by side in marriage for 41 years.

In the foyer before the service when I met Danny, he took my hand and he told me a little sliver of their love story. Four days after Sandy turned 18 years old, they eloped. They made promises to each other as teenagers that they would stand by one another in sickness, in health, in good times and in bad, in the rough patches and in the moments of bliss…. 18 years old, they made these promises to one another, and they kept them.

I know something about Sandy because I heard her love story, I heard about her long lasting marriage.

I know something about Sandy, because I browsed those pictures in the hallway tonight. If you haven’t looked at those pictures yet, spend some time at that center table and take a look- because there is something you will notice.

Sandy has this stance- in so many of the pictures out there- you can see Sandy in this stance- it’s the stance of an embrace. I saw a picture filled with smiles- and Sandy in her stance- embracing little Walker Chad. I saw a picture overflowing with joy- and Sandy there in her stance- embracing beautiful Stevie as a little girl. In another picture filled with light and hope, I saw Sandy in her stance, embracing Jeb under a tree.

It’s that stance of an embrace, arms stretched out in love and tenderness and that stance runs throughout those pictures in the foyer.

I know many of you were robbed of the chance to meet Sandy too- because we lost her too soon.

Let me tell you this: The best way that we can honor Sandy tonight is to love and embrace the people that she loved and embraced.

We are hurting tonight we because we grieve and weep for Sandy. We are hurting tonight because with Sandy, we lost a place of refuge in her arms—that stance of an embrace.

No matter what brings you here tonight, whether you knew Sandy personally or simply through the reflection of her in her children and her husband, remember that tonight we are here to honor her and care for her. But more than that, we are called to step in and offer that same stance over and over again to all those that Sandy loved.

If you have ever come to church, if you’ve ever prayed, if you’ve ever lifted your heart in devotion to our creator- than you know it all leads to this moment, when we are called to be the place of refuge and strength to our friends, to those we love. We are called to this stance: the open arms of an embrace, so that we can carry Chad, and Matthew, and Walker, and Stevie, and Jeb, and Kevin, and Bethany, and Danny every single day, until they have the strength to stand again.

And now, as we pray, in the spirit of that stance we are all called to take, I invite each of you to reach out and hold hands with your neighbor as we pray:

God, we stand here tonight hand in hand. Bind us together in support and love and unity.

We are here because we need each other. Let us be unified as care and compassion incarnate.  

All of the Sundays we’ve come to church or prayed or cried out to You point us to this moment, this action, as we reach out to one another, hand in hand. Taking on that stance of an embrace.

Give us the endurance to hold each other up.

 Give us the strength to embrace Danny and Chad and Bethany and Matthew in this time of deep heart ache.

Give us the wisdom to know when our words will be encouraging and helpful.

Give us the restraint to know when silence is the most healing power of all.

God may your healing spring forth, may a peace that passes all understanding hover over Danny, and Bethany, and Chad, and Matthew every single hour of their days.

May we all stand firm, side by side with Sandy’s family as that place of refuge that they will need for this journey ahead. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

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What did it look like?

Easter after Easter, I wonder: What did the resurrection look like? That moment when death becomes life again…

What did it look like—that first moment when the tomb- the place of mourning—is emptied?

What did that beautiful moment look like when hope trampled fear once and for all?

Easter after Easter, I have questions. How did the resurrection happen? Did Jesus rise up from the ashes like a phoenix or did his lifeless body just take a breath again? Was it more like a lightning bolt? Or waking up from a dream? How can we know for sure?

Whether we have questions rooted in wonder, or questions burdened with doubt, the good news of Easter is that we don’t have to know what the resurrection looked like or how exactly it happened.

Even our ancestors- the earliest disciples of Christ- did not see the resurrection unfold. They stumbled upon an empty tomb- hours after the light shined in the darkness.

We don’t have to know how the resurrection looked or felt or smelled or tasted or even how it happened. We’re called believe what it means:

in midst of despair and weeping and gnashing of teeth- God says to God’s people: tombs will be emptied.

Hope will be restored.

The darkness cannot overcome the light.

Every place of mourning and suffering and hurting will be restored because Christ is risen indeed.

So we can question all we want. How did this happen? What did it look like? It doesn’t matter.

This is what Easter means: We are so loved by our Creator that even death has no sting. Our pain and suffering will never overcome the light- no matter what it might seem like day by day.

This is what defines us as God’s people.

Living and present God, we stand here in awe and wonder.

sometimes it feels like our pain is written in stone, chiseled into boulders that crush our souls.

But this morning, as the sun rose, Easter came once again.

You remind us today of the good news: crushing stones are rolled away.

The pain we bury deep in our hearts will be brought back to the light,

because every tomb is emptied.

Every hurt is healed.

We do not know what the resurrection looked like or how it happened.

But we do know what Easter preaches to all of God’s people.

In Easter, God , you proclaim to us: We have permission to heal, we are blessed to recover, we may have the courage to hope. We need not be bound by fear.

In Easter, God, you proclaim: weeping will cease.

In Easter, God, you proclaim: We are made in the image of glory.

In Easter, God, you proclaim: Death has no power over us, because we are children of an eternal, living spirit.

And so, in Easter- Let us proclaim: Alleluia. Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen indeed! Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

Good Friday Prayer

God of grace and light, we have come to the cross again tonight.

Two pieces of wood, nailed together like an X marking the spot where human brokenness resides.

We see the cross every single day: that place where pain and suffering intersect.

That place where violence and injustice meet.

We see it in the famine and draught and war tearing God’s people apart.

We see it in the hatred and prejudice rising up in our neighborhoods and our cities and our nations.

We see it in the tears of our friends and family who weep for this aching world.

We understand the cross as that shape that reminds us of the pain we create when we do not walk in the ways of peace and mercy.

God of hope and transformation: work in us tonight.

Make us into instruments of your unconditional love and your radical compassion.

Renew our understanding the Gospel so that we can live in these truths of Easter: that love wins every time, and brokenness never has the final word. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

Maundy Thursday

+ John 13: 5, 24-25  5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him…34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Loving and gracious God, tonight we remember the bold act of compassion and mercy when your Son, Jesus, washed his disciples’ feet. We remember that Christ eased their burdens , Christ invited them to feast, Christ restored dignity and honor to them. We are here because we long to do likewise.  Lord in your Mercy….hear our prayers.

God, we pray for the whole world, as it aches with brokenness. We come to the foot of your throne tonight so that we might learn how to ease the burden of war, and transform communities that famine into communities that feast, and restore your people in wholeness. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayers.

Spirit of light and goodness, we pray for our local community in Memphis, as we groan in our distress. Tonight we lift up our hearts and our hands for those who need guidance, for those who are homeless, addicted, afflicted and oppressed, and for those who we need to reach with our ministry and service. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayers.

Creator of all, sustainer of all, we pray for the relationships in our lives, as we wade through our complicated web of connection and community: give us the wisdom to forgive those who harm us, love those who despise us, reach out to those who avoid us, and understand those who are different from us. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayers.

Almighty One, we offer ourselves tonight as followers of your Truth. Mold us into ambassadors of your grace. Soften us so that we may take on your tenderness. Build us up so that we may have courage to bring your kingdom. Lord in your mercy…hear our prayers.

Reveal your Gospel to us O God, so that we might draw out the divine living in this world, in every person we meet, and in every corner of the earth where you dwell. May it be so, Amen.

It’s hard to imagine what the last supper must have been like, because we are so far from it. We can barely imagine that scene where friends gather around a table in the evening.

 No traffic jams.

No time crunch between one meeting and the next.

 No cell phones or ipads or email distractions.

Just friends gathering around a table with their teacher and their Lord.

And around this table, a new model of fellowship is born.

This was a feast of simplicity and radical love.

A master serves his followers.

A leader kneels before his friends to wash their feet.

The simplicity and beauty in this Passover meal is the heart of our gospel and the heart of our faith.

This is the very moment when Jesus decides to remind us:  go and do likewise.

Foot washing in Jesus’ time was a way to serve workers who labored on their feet all day. This was a ministry of comfort and compassion and the easing of burdens.

We come to the gospel tonight to begin the process of stripping away every distraction and excuse and burden from our lives so that we can simply serve God and serve our neighbors.

We come to the gospel to tonight to remember what this new model of fellowship looks like.

May we all serve the workers and laborers among us. May we all take on a ministry of comfort and compassion.

May we all work to ease the burdens of this aching world. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

Meditations from Palm Sunday

+ Mark 11:1-11 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciplesand said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it,some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna!    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Palm Sunday Prayer

All loving and all knowing God, thank you for the bright sun, warm wind and budding trees. Today we are grateful. Palm Sunday reminds us of everything green and growing and rising up. We remember that your message comes to us in high and low places.

God, help us feel small today, kneeling in awe and wonder at your power. Help us shed the layers of pride and prestige and ego so that we make way for your gentle and peaceful Spirit that fills this sanctuary.

God, help us feel big today, standing in your presence as your beloved people, your marked creation, your hope for this world. Help us to answer your call and stand up for righteousness and justice and our neighbors.

Lord, lift us up, and bring us to our knees, all so that we may know you more.

We ask all of this in Jesus name, Amen.

A Few Thoughts on Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday, we turn to the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. In Mark’s gospel, we know that Jesus ministered in small towns and small villages. In fact, in this Gospel, Jesus never ministers in a town bigger than Capernaum– a town of only 5,000 residents.

For the first time, we see Jesus entering the big city, Jerusalem, on a humble donkey- and his arrival is a big deal.

Followers of Christ began to put their cloaks on the road in front of Jesus, as if they were casting off all of their layers of pride and prestige and power, stripping themselves down to their God made selves as they came into the presence of the Lord riding to Jerusalem on a humble, peaceful donkey.

This passage is all about Christ’s transformative presence: his power and his influence, and yet, his humble approach to change and redemption: one person at a time, one small village at a time, one cloak shed at a time.

As we reflect on Palm Sunday today, let us remember that no matter who we are and where we come from, Christ has commissioned us to be powerful agents of change, to love boldly and act justly.

And, let us remember that no matter who we are and where we come from, Christ has called us to walk humbly and kneel before our peaceful, gentle Savior who rides a donkey, that tramples all our egos so that we might rely on faith for this journey. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

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