Debora K. Germain - A Reluctant, Yet Grateful, Homily

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church

 

Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

 

Prayer.

 

It is good to be together this evening.

Individually, each of us carry the heavy burden of grief and loss.

Some, more so

than others;

Each of us ache

in our own, unique way.

With our gathering,

we join together our hearts and tears,

we feel the pain of others,

we swell with empathy,

we bathe in love.

That love keeps us sane.

It keeps our heads above water.

When our mourning has ended,

and the morning sun begins to rise again

it will be love that returns us

to buoyancy,

to wholeness,

to life.

That love comes from God

and was made manifest in Jesus;

to whom Deb joined her life

and who has now received her home.

 

“If you’re going to stand around and cry, then just go away!” Deb told us.

“Yes, mam,” we all said and nodded.

We did our best,

even though we each had occasional leaks.

- Insert here your favorite Monte Pyton punch line -

and we’d perk back up

like native south Buffalonians.

 

It is Deb’s sincere desire for us to dry our tears;

that this service

and this message

be a celebration of life,

focused  on love,

faith,

and the community of faith from which Deb found great strength,

the people of Zion.

 

Deb loves you so much that she hated addictions.

She always separated the illness from the individual

in a beautiful,

non-judgmental way.

With laser clarity,

Deb recognized that the first symptom is denial,

and she was a master as cutting through the BS.

She was the first in line

to toss a rescue bouyie to anyone needing saved.

Deb saw how addictions

caused good people,

brought up with good Christian values,

- who know better -

to do things and act out in ways that they would later regret;

that brought pain and brokenness

to themselves

and loving families.

Deb wants healing and wholeness for each of us.

That’s why she worked so passionately for FLACRA,

serving on the board,

and helping to launch initiatives like Cadence Square.

That’s why it was her prayer each Sunday

for God to help those who struggle with addictions.

 

A brief story Deb told me

two weeks ago today

and asked that I share with you:

About a month ago,

Deb went to the hairdresser to get her hair cut.

Her hairdresser was a tough looking cookie,

looked like she led a rough life,

complete with tattoos and piercings.

“How do you want it cut?”

“Doesn’t matter,”

“Just cut it all off.”

“Why?” she asked.

“I have lung cancer and I’m going to lose it anyway in the next round of chemo.”

“Did you smoke?”

“Twenty years.”

“I’ve been trying to quit.”

What ensued was a tender discussion

of temptation and repeated failure,

of deep and longing desire,

and of hope for a better life.

Deb said to me, “I saw the opportunity and I went for it.”

The hairdresser looked directly at Deb and said,

“When I reach for a cigarette, I want to remember your face.”

“Maybe, you will help me quit.”

 

I’m confident

the best way to honor Deb’s life and respect her legacy

is with getting clean and sober,

staying clean and sober;

to experience healing,

come to wellness,

and drink deeply from the well of faith.

 

“Okay, people! Dry your eyes,” I can hear her say.

- Insert your favorite slightly off color joke punch line here -

Laughter can be that balm of Gilead, that heals the sin sick soul.

 

There was one evening at Roswell Park

where the place was filled with families and children,

Christmas music,

and holiday cheer.

It was the annual lighting of the Christmas tree.

Tim,

you commented how beautiful it was,

together with the view from Deb’s window

overlooking the red and green visa

of Buffalo’s night sky.

Children, youth, emerging adults meant everything to Deb.

Blair, you’ve mentioned that

it has always been your mother’s desire

for you to pursue your goals.

We know!

In spades!

And not only you,

but every daughter and son of Zion!

‘da Zion Youth Band

became a thing

because Deb recognized the opportunity

to “catch a kid”

and invest her love and values into the next generation.

For 17 years she invested in kids in the Parks and Recreation department,

way before it became a popular TV show.

She served on the Red Ribbon committee.

She gave piano lessons.

Deb mentored confirmation youth.

She worked with kids to make banners,

stage countless pageants,

and create some of the most innovative Rally Day productions imaginable.

Welcome to the SS Zion!

The bulletin board she created in the side room

“Where are They Now”

is a testament to her belief

that you don’t let anyone go,

that you invest love, values, and faith

into every child who crosses your path,

who God brings into your life.

 

Dry your eyes.

- Insert here your memory of the funniest outfit you’ve ever seen Deb wear -

Deb loved to laugh, and wanted us to share in the laughter,

to share in her joy, too!

 

We all know that Deb had a certain bite about her.

She didn’t suffer fools or tolerate BS.

Deb’s life was about as authentic as they come.

You always knew where you stood with her.

What was special about Deb, however,

is the commitment she had to relationships.

No one was a throw away.

You never give up on someone

God brought into your life.

Never.

God doesn’t give up on anyone,

and neither would Deb.

Therefore, it was safe to disagree

- sometimes with passion -

yet, remain assured that your relationship with her was never at risk.

There is a lesson here from which we all can learn.

If God loved you so much

that he brought you into Deb’s life,

well, then,

who are we to even think about disrupting or disappointing God?

 

“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,”

we heard from the letter to the Hebrews.

Cancer sucks.

It is a tragedy that it is a milestone in the race many of us face.

When Deb received her diagnosis about 10 months ago

it confirmed softly whispered concerns from previous years.

It quietly aroused fears that are best left between her and God.

Yet,

as I counseled her to look for snippets of grace in every encounter,

the grace of God descended upon Deb

like the gentleness of new fallen snow.

Each of us began to make snow angels in this new found grace;

it became easier to let go, and let God,

to pay attention to what was truly important in life,

to “not grow weary or lose heart.”

I did not see any evidence of Deb growing weary or losing heart.

She saw a chance and she took it,

knowing full well that,

as Deb put it,

Christ had supported her in every life transition,

and she fully expected Christ to lead her home.

The hope of dancing in heaven with her father gave her joy!

The anticipation of playing the piano for Jesus’ birthday party this year made her sing!

Deb’s beautiful music will play on.

 

The hope of angels providing mercy filled care,

of family gathered,

and the Church united in prayer

kept her heart strong

and anchored in Christ.

When life sucks,

faith grows and blooms.

These past months provided a deepening of faith

that stirs my soul.

Deb and I privately spoke about her relationship

with nearly every person assembled here this evening;

of her burning desire

for Jesus to be the center of our very being.

The suffering of Christ

became one with her own suffering and pain.

Through it,

she began to see how

she could ease the pain and suffering of the world.

The resurrection of Christ

has now become her victory in Jesus,

her joy with the morning.

 

I’ll close with a stanza from “Nun ruhen alle Walder”

kindly shared with Genesee Area Campus Ministries Board

at last week’s gathering.

It is a reference to Matthew 23,

where Jesus compares himself to a mother hen

and wishes to gather the children of Jerusalem

under his wings.

“Spread broad both wings,

O Jesus, my joy,

and gather in your chick!

If Satan wishes to swallow me,

let little angels sing:

This child shall not be harmed!”

(Paul Gerhardt, with thanks to Randall Stone)

Debora,

this daughter of Zion,

shall not be harmed.

Amen.