Sermon for the Rev. Marcia Engblom

Sermon for the Rev. Marcia Engblom

On Friday, November 4, a Celebration of Life Service was held at Trinity Cathedral for the Rev. Marcia Engblom, who passed away on Friday, October 28. The Rev. Canon Britt Olson delivered a sermon at this service. You will find a copy of it below.

Isaiah 61:1-3
Psalm 121
Revelation 7:9-17
John 11:21-27

Look. Look around you. Look with your eyes and with the eyes of your hearts. Today a multitude is gathered in this holy space. We come from many different places and backgrounds. We come as those who grieve and mourn. We lament over the death of Marcia+, the many deaths we have experienced and even over the fact of death itself. We are family, friends, and colleagues, current and former parishioners. We are joined with mourners in Oregon, other states and even other countries.

And we are not alone. Present with us - present when we see with the eyes of our hearts -- are the souls of the ones who have gone before us. Surrounding us is a great multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. They provide for us the vision that our hearts long for; the vision of life, life eternal, resurrection life beyond sorrow, suffering, pain and even death itself.

It is a vision that we often lose sight of. It can be elusive and easily missed. The vision can be obscured by the darkness of despair or the presence of evil. The everyday concerns of life can blind us to the deeper vision of real life, true life, life that is precious and meaningful and purposeful.

But then our world is turned upside down in an instant: the shock of a phone call; a message via e-mail or Facebook; the doctor’s report. Quite suddenly we are blinded and bewildered and wondering why? And how? And what will we do?

And so we come together because we need to, because we have a desperate desire to connect and to hold and be held. We come to tell wonderful stories about the woman we loved and admired so much. And we come hoping and longing for and wondering if we can catch a glimpse of the vision that we need so much.

In the center of this multitude and at the center of the great throng of the heavenly vision, there is One. One who can hold all our grief and bear all our sorrow. One who can dwell in the deepest parts of our hearts to bring peace and healing. One who will be with us through every ordeal until we are seen safely home. One who is the resurrection and the life even in the midst of death.

The One at the center is Jesus, the Lamb of God who offers himself on our behalf for love’s sake. He is the one who bids us to rest in him when we are weary and heavy laden. He is the one who invites us to the heavenly banquet where we receive his presence and are fed and strengthened for the journey.

And when we enter into Christ and he enters into our hearts, the vision grows ever stronger. It is the vision where those who are oppressed receive the good news of release; where the brokenhearted are held and healed; where those who are captive are set free; the hungry are fed; those who mourn are comforted and God’s favor falls upon all. It is the vision where there are no outcasts or strangers.

This is the vision that gave light and strength and purpose to Marcia+. This is the vision that called her to offer her gifts, time, passion and very life for the fullness of its realization. She was filled by the brightness and beauty of this vision. Over and over people share that their experience of her was filled with light and with the beauty that shined in her smile.

And it was this vision that directed her ministry. She truly believed that the Church should reflect the vision of God in Christ. She worked to include people from very different backgrounds and circumstances in the Body of Christ, the Church. She preached and baptized and administered the sacrament in a way that included everyone and made space for the least, the last and the lost.

She challenged those at the center to find a way to reach those on the edges. The vision she lived by often turns things upside down. This is an uncomfortable position for many of us, particularly those of us in what is unfondly referred to as the Institutional Church. And yet Marcia+ persisted. She was faithful and skillful and she had a blessedly good sense of humor.

And she could sing. When the saints get together, they sing. We sing in worship and praise. We sing in weakness and in strength. We sing in joy and through sorrow. We sing with tears coursing down our faces. We may begin faintly but the chorus grows as voice is added to voice and we find the tune and rhythm. And deeply underneath our frail voices are those of the multitude who join with us in a heavenly chorus.

Some are signing their song with the beauty of the language of their hands. Some have been rejected and yet are being drawn close to the heart of God. Some are veterans and victims of war and others are those they called their enemies. Some lack a home or shelter but find their place in the house of God and food at this holy table. Some even sing by barking and yowling!

Marcia+ always ended her sermons with a challenge to the congregation. It was the challenge to not only be hearers of God’s message but also doers. She reminded everyone that after they had received God’s goodness, they were to go out and share it. And she modeled what it meant to share the good news of God by word and example. It wasn’t always a comfortable message but it always came from a place of deep love and faith.

And so here is the challenge for us today. We are to go forth from this place not as those who are without hope but rather as ones who have experienced the triumph of life over death. We are to let our broken hearts remain open to those who Marcia+ was always letting into her heart – the rejected, the ones on the margins, the ones who are not like us and the ones we don’t even like. We are to persist and be patient, knowing and believing that ultimately love will have the last word. We are free to mourn fully, trusting that God will comfort and provide for us. We are to be the Body of Christ, the sign of resurrection life and light to the world. Amen.

Click here to read the original announcement about Marcia's+ passing on the diocesan website.

Click here to read a recent Sacramento Bee article about Marcia+.

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