In addition to the rest of the sorrow that this year has brought our nation and our community, another moment of sorrow has come to our church family. Steve Wilkinson entered the Church Triumphant on Monday afternoon after a long struggle with his illness. Many of you shared stories with me, and I’m sure you have shared them with Leslie, about the ways in which Steve touched your lives and modeled Christian faith and discipleship for this congregation. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Steve when he was in full health and active in body, mind, and spirit. But I did have the opportunity to know a man who, even in the frustrating days and weeks and months of physical limitation, still had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. I count myself fortunate to have known Steve Wilkinson, even for these short months, and I consider him a mentor and a dear friend. I know in heaven he will be assigned the task of painting sunsets over the Hill Country for the rest of us to enjoy. And when I watch a sunset over Lake Travis, I will lift up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the life and witness of Steve Wilkinson.
It is so hard some days to feel hopeful or joyful or grateful. There are so many things about our lives that we have lost and will never get back. There are so many people our world has lost and will never get back. This is ever the way of the world as long as we are in it. But it seems particularly present with us in these days.
Recently I have had several emails forwarded to me that talk about ways to manage stress – by meditation or mindfulness, by walking the neighborhood or sitting outdoors, by deep breathing or prayer. All of these are good methods to reduce stress in these days. But perhaps the best way to reduce stress is to get beyond yourself and your own immediate surroundings and worries; remember to love others; appreciate the moments of beauty and serenity that wind their way through your days.
So hold on to each other gently and sincerely in these days. Take a moment to say a kind word to someone who is important to you. Write a postcard or a letter. Send an email or a text message. Pick up the phone and call. And tell someone they are loved and appreciated and remembered. If you don’t know who to call, get out your church directory and call the person before you and after you in the list. Ask them how they are doing. And offer them the grace of listening.
I appreciate and remember each of you. I love you. I give thanks to God for each of you. And I feel grateful to have you in my life as members of my chosen family.