“Autumn in the Kingdom of God”

Memorial Service Reflection for Miriam Smith
Isaiah 57:1-2; 1 John 4:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5: 1-5
South Presbyterian Church – October 26, 2013

            I love the fall.

            Growing up in the foothills of the Catskills in upstate New York, I think it’s the most beautiful time of the year.

You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl!

And that was Miriam.

She may have travelled all around the world – some of you went with her on these junkets. She may have settled into a professional career in the heart of the CITY … but she never stopped being the country girl, did she?

And there’s something about being a country girl (or boy) that gets reflected in the values of the three readings that the family picked for today.

Take the 1 John passage, for example … It says, “When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.” That was Smitty, wasn’t it?

She never seemed to be afraid.

Oh, I knew she WAS sometimes because we would talk about what she was going through. But it wasn’t a DEBILITATING fear because throughout her life she had KNOWN God’s presence. God had always been there for her… ever since she was a little girl in the Camden region. God wasn’t gonna fail her now.

John tells us there that “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love.”

Miriam Smith was FULLY formed in love.

There was no fear of death and no fear of judgment.

Consequently, she didn’t need to judge OTHERS, either.

Or the Isaiah passage … when “right-living people die”  they are “out of their misery. They’re finally at rest. They lived well and with dignity and now they’re finally at peace.”

We KNOW this is true of our sister, Miriam because she was CERTAINLY a right-living person.

How do we know that?

Because we are all like the leaves on the trees in autumn … our TRUE COLORS come SHINING THROUGH.

One of the most interesting things about leaves is that they are these beautiful colors ALL YEAR LONG.

I sometimes think of that during the spring and summer. I look at a tree and wonder what color it will be when the chlorophyll has all dissipated and we can see the true color because it’s not masked by the green anymore.

When the trappings of life are taken away, we see what’s underneath … we see the true colors whether it’s of a tree or of a life.

Miriam’s colors came shining through … it wasn’t easy for her in the last few years. In fact, for as long as I’ve known her it was hard… though you’d hardly know it by talking with her.

But her colors came shining through … through to the children she ministered to as a pediatric nurse…

… through to her colleagues in medicine … from the young physicians starting out in the field who she nurtured and subtly educated about the ART of medicine beyond the science they had learned in school …

Her colors came shining through to her family and friends through her laughter and love … her hugs and the deviousness that crept in when most people weren’t looking.

They shone through her humor and her ability to laugh at herself before she would EVER laugh at others.

Like the leaves, those colors were there all the time.

And so I wonder what Autumn is like in the Kingdom of God.

HERE, we tend to see it as a dying time, I think. Winter is coming … for some it means packing up life and getting on to the sun-belt for the winter.

For others, it’s a time of apple picking and cider making … of raking and children jumping into piles of leaves.

For baseball fans, it’s the Fall Classic. Or it’s soccer, football and rugby season … it’s back to school and getting ready for Thanksgiving. It’s remembering veterans and sending children off to school … or college.

But in the Kingdom of God … in God’s nearer presence as Miriam now is … I think it’s a time when our True Colors are on full display all the time because we are one with God and God is EVERY color. As we are fond of saying, “God is good all the time … and all the time God is good.”

ALL THE TIME Smitty is happy.

All the time she is laughing and enjoying Life (with a capital “L”) …

All the time she is able to focus on the wonder of children and the love of learning … on the art of HEALING and the joy of BEING.

She sees these colors ALL THE TIME … because she IS these colors all the time. There is nothing to cover over them … to chlorophyll to tint or obscure them. And she IS these colors all the time.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians … we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again.”

He was talking about Miriam … and about you and me … when he said, “We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.”

Personally, I think God does that for us every year at this time when we witness the world a-wash with bright and brilliant hues … with color combinations that are STUNNING.

And we also get a glimpse into the Kingdom of God in the here and now when we live alongside men and women of faith like Miriam and others.

And we get to THINK about the true nature of life every autumn when we see the fall colors and remember that they were really surrounding us all year long … just like the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached about: it’s here … it’s now … and we are invited to be a part of it… just as our sister, Smitty, was.

The God who so richly blessed her life has welcomed home this beloved child and servant  of the Risen Christ. Her Creator has embraced her and said for all to hear:  “Well done, my good and faithful servant. … Well done.”      AMEN.

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