Homily for Sarah Catherine Wender, preached July 9th, 2013
+ Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Sarah dreamed big dreams.
On Sunday afternoon, I spent time with her family to plan this service. We thumbed through one of Sarah’s sacred journals. This treasure was a sketchbook of Sarah’s hopes and future plans.
She clipped images of bright rooms and blooming gardens. She collected pictures of abundant dinner tables and cozy living rooms.
Sarah dreamed big dreams.
In the front cover of her sketchbook, she wrote:
I want to write, to sew, to crochet, learn to create handmade dolls, learn how to make jelly and jams, canned fruit and veggies. I want a little garden with butterflies and birds. I want comfortable couches, rocking chairs, rugs, lots of hanging plants. I want to cook a lot for my family, my husband. I want to read everything- keep learning- growing, putting God and others before me.
Sarah dreamed bid dreams. She could picture a place where life would be simple, where her basic needs would be met and filled through the humble joys of snuggly places to read, homemade food straight from the earth, and familiar, loving people surrounding her.
Sarah cast a vision for her future and for her life. She longed for this peaceful, beautiful life where she could finally rest.
Sarah wrote a list of dreams in the cover of this sketchbook too. This was her list:
-I live clean and free
-I am good to the ones I love
-I forgive and I am forgiven
-I am a great social worker
-I have financial stability
-I own a car
-I have a career
– I have an adorable home to share with a man I love
-I make mamma proud
Sarah dreamed big dreams. Because of her imaginative spirit and her creative soul, it makes sense that Sarah would love the scripture reading from the Beatitudes, because this text is a text of dreams.
Jesus preached from the mountaintop to a group of people just like us, who were brokenhearted, thirsty, hungry, weeping, mourning, questioning and crying out.
Jesus preached images that resembled a beautiful dream. He said: picture this, all of you- the poor in spirit are blessed, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said: Dream this, all of you, those who mourn are blessed, they will be comforted.
Jesus said: Vision this, everyone: blessed are the meek, they will inherit the earth.
These days, when we look around and see this aching world and all of the problems around us, when we turn on the news and hear about more dead ends, more failed plans, more hurting souls- we all realize that we would have to be DREAMING to believe in Christ’s message in the Beatitudes.
In fact, it would take the strength, and the imagination, and the bold faith of a true dreamer to read these words from the Sermon on the Mount and know they were true.
And yet, Sarah cherished the promises and hopes and dreams that Jesus proclaims in the Beatitudes. She carried around Emmet Fox’s book “The Sermon on the Mount” and she read and re-read its pages.
She rubbed the corners of each page and dog-eared each chapter and highlighted long sections of this book because Sarah had eyes to see God’s promise, God’s faithfulness, and Christ’s truth in the Beatitudes.
Today, we gather to celebrate Sarah Wender, one of the greatest dreamers we will ever know.
Every day that she lived, Sarah clung to these sweet words of Christ that promise us all: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.
We are here to honor Sarah by learning from her example. Let us all leave this place today and carry on what Sarah taught us. Let us dog-ear the pages and highlight these holy words from scripture.
May we all study these words… pray these words… internalize these words of hope until the pages of our bibles are worn thin- just as Sarah taught us.
But most of all, may these words whisper comfort to our aching hearts. May we all receive the good news from the all loving, all knowing God:
‘Blessed is Sarah, even in the moments she was poor in spirit, for hers is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed is Sarah, even in the days she felt meek, for she will inherit glory.
‘Blessed is Sarah who hungered for knowledge, who thirsted for peace, she will be filled.
‘Blessed is Merciful Sarah, for today, she will receive mercy.
‘Blessed is Sarah, pure in heart, for today, she will see God.
‘Blessed is Sarah, peacemaker and friend, she has been called child of God.
‘Blessed are all of us who mourn today and in the days ahead, for we will be comforted. Amen.