Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

It has been six months since we began this pandemic journey together. The grief, loss and loneliness of this season of disruption have been experienced in one degree or another by most everyone. We all have our pandemic stories of canceled weddings, zoom graduations, postponed funerals, lost jobs, designer masks, and cars that need to be jump-started because they have sat dormant. Through it all, South Whidbey and our TLC community have remained relatively healthy and mostly disease-free.

The virus came home this week with the news of the Covid-19 death of Grace Anastasia Mathew. On a memorable Sunday morning at Trinity Lutheran Church, I had the privilege of baptizing Grace. Baptized also that day were her sisters, Isabella and Faith and her brother, Elijah. What a joyful day it was. I still have the bulletin tucked into my hymnal.

Grace would attend the Island Christian Academy and South Whidbey High School. She would dance in the Whidbey Island Dance Theater Nutcracker, become a certified scuba diver and earn a college degree from Windward Community College. The tattoo on her wrist spoke of her faith, “Strength and Honor are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in times to come.” Proverbs 31:25.

Grace was young, vibrant, healthy, and full of life. The virus came home this week; Grace died shortly after her 24th birthday. She was unable to defeat Covid-19.

On the same day that I heard of Grace’s death, as I opened my hymnal to see her name printed there and said a prayer for her and imagined the unspeakable grief of her family, I received an email critical of my leadership through this crisis. I did not take it personally; I rarely take such criticism personally anymore. What I saw there scribbled between the letters and the lines of the email was a deep sense of grief. Grief that we are not worshiping together in person, grief that life as we knew it does not exist anymore, grief that the world had turned without our permission and not to our liking.

The virus came home this week; death made its presence known in our community. This “death out of season” has reminded us of our own mortality and the shared grief we carry in this time of pandemic. This struggle will not soon leave us, and it is not new to the human family.

This account is 478 years old; Martin Luther is at the deathbed of his beloved 13-year-old daughter, Magdalene:

“Now as Magdalene lay in agony of death, her father fell down before the bed on his knees and wept bitterly and prayed that God might free her. Then she departed and fell asleep in her father’s arms. As they laid her in the coffin, Martin Luther said: ‘Darling Lena, you will rise and shine like a star, yea, like the sun. I am happy in spirit, but the flesh is sorrowful and will not be content, the parting grieves me beyond measure.’”

Grace Anastasia, you will rise and shine like a star, we trust you to God, even as our hearts break and our flesh is sorrowful. May God give your family all that they need to face the years ahead, until they will be reunited with you, safe in the hands of God.

One painful day closer,
Pastor Jim