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April 20, 2007

'Thank you, Immanuel Lutheran Church'


That’s what my husband will say tomorrow at the memorial service for his mother.  “I know it is silly to say this: It’s not rational to thank people for being themselves. But I feel overwhelmingly compelled to do so,” he plans to tell the people of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Grand Ledge, Mich.

His mom had joined this congregation when she was 80 years old, a recent widow and a new resident of a nearby retirement home. She’d moved to up to Michigan, to be near her daughter, from the Florida golfing community where she and her husband had lived for 15 years. Bill recalls that neither he not his sister nor even his mom knew what to expect of this new time in her life.

“But them she arrived at Immanuel and discovered she was expected,” Bill will say. “You were waiting for her.” And this is what they were waiting to do—”welcoming Mom unto your community, unto your worship, into your hearts.” And there’s more. “...for letting her care for you, even as you in turn cared so much for her.”

I think of specifics: She tutored a man who’d never learned to read, making egg-salad sandwiches for “senior” Luther League, took part in the healing ministry.

“Thank you for sharing with her your sorrows and joys, indeed your life together these past six years,” her grateful son will say. “Thank you and thank the Lord for such a blessing!”

I suspect many people in the congregation will be surprised by my husband’s brief talk and protest, “We did nothing special. We were just being ourselves.”

Do you, too, hear the echoes of Matthew 25: ”I was a stranger and you welcomed me”?

Yes, the people of Immanuel were just being themselves—people of God.

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