". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Funeral Sermon for Barbara Lou Hollis

Rev. John Wilke, preacher

If a picture paints a thousand words, then what words does this picture paint? This picture of Barbara’s hand being held by a daughter is a scene no doubt repeated many times through her life. But I would guess more often than naught, it was Barbara, the mother, whose hand would hold her daughter's. 

The hand of a mother does many things throughout the life of a child. When the child is still an infant, that mother’s hand reaches out to grasp those tiny fingers as if to say, “It’s all going to be okay.” And in the middle of the night when a daughter is fearful, that mother’s hand reaches out and brings safety and security. A mother’s hand can, in one moment, be raised in discipline, and then in the next be found wiping away tears. A mother’s hand offers unconditional love to the child scorned by others. A mother’s hand offers guidance to that unstable baby taking those first few steps. A mother’s hand, every wrinkle and every scar or swollen joint, is a sign of love.

But a mother’s hand also bears the signs of sin. And in this picture, the frail hand of Barbara serves as a clear reminder to us of the curse of sin. This hand is aged, this hand is weary, and this hand is clinging to her daughter’s as life is slipping away. Death is that sure and certain reminder of sin; both in our world and in our lives. 

But there is another set of hands we can picture today. Those hands were described to us in our gospel reading. The first set of hands belong to a doubter named Thomas. He cannot believe in the Lord’s resurrection unless his eyes can see and his hands can touch the wounds of his savior. 
So our hands and Barbara’s hands begin life as the hands of a doubting Thomas. We cannot believe what we cannot see, we cannot trust what we cannot understand. We live in doubt and disbelief, leading to despair and death. Unless a hand reaches out save us we have no hope.

The other hands in our gospel today are the hands of Jesus. They are scarred and bloody with the wounds of crucifixion. They are the hands of a dead man now living. Those hands of Jesus, the hands of Thomas’ Lord and God, are the hands of our salvation. 

It is Jesus, who reaches down into humanity, down into our lives and grabs our hands. He reaches down to hold our hand because our human hand in its weakened, sinful state cannot reach up. He holds onto our hands because our grasp is too frail.

The hands of Jesus, like the hands of mother, do many things for each of us. Those hands were stretched out upon the cross, pierced by nails all for our sake. In baptism that hand of Jesus traced upon our foreheads and our hearts the sign of the cross marking us and Barbara as one redeemed. 
The hand of Jesus, through the preaching of the Word, has been raised to us in discipline, calling us to repentance. And then that same hand reaches down in grace and mercy to place Jesus’ own body and blood upon our lips that we might be forgiven. When we are frightened and afflicted by the events of this world, the hand of Jesus reaches out and takes hold of our hand and walks us through the valleys of this life.

And as we begin to lose our grip on this life and this world, the hand of Jesus even more holds onto our hand. The strong hand of our savior leads us safely through the valley of the shadow of death so that we need not fear. His hands lead us gently into the loving arms of our waiting heavenly Father.

On Valentine’s Day, I met with Barbara and commended her to the Lord. In her room we read the words of Psalm 31. There together we prayed, “Into your hands I commend my spirit, you have redeemed me. O LORD faithful God.” In death Barbara was entrusted into the hands of her heavenly Father who so graciously provided for her in this life through the hands of Jesus.

Even now, in the midst of things we cannot fully understand Jesus comes with hands of love and tender mercy. He comes to the grieving that he might wipe away their tears in the promise of heaven where there will be no more crying and no more tears. In life and death the Lord held Barbara’s hand and so he will for us as well. May the hand of God rest upon all who grieve and mourn that they might know his grace and mercy.

Funeral Service of Barbara Lou Hollis, February 27, 2016

Preservice Meditation - "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us"
Cheryl Magness, piano

Prelude - "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say"
Bianca Wilke, soprano
Phillip Magness, piano


Hymn - "And There's Another Country"


Salutation and Collect of the Day

First Reading - Job 19:23-27

Psalm 27 - "The Lord is My Light" (David Haas)
Bianca Wilke and Kyle Lowry, vocals
Phillip Magness, vocal/piano

Second Reading - 1 Cor. 15:50-58

Verse - Rev. 1:5-6; 2 Tim. 2:11b, 12a. 13

Holy Gospel - John 20:24-29

The Apostles' Creed

Hymn - "Amazing Grace"
Phillip Magness, piano

Sermon - Rev. John Wilke

Hymn - "Jerusalem, My Happy Home"
Kyle Lowry and Phillip Magness, soloists

Prayer of the Church

The Lord's Prayer

Canticle of Commendation - Nunc Dimittis
Phillip, Cheryl, Trevor, Caitlin and Evan Magness, choir


Benedicamus and Benediction

Recessional Hymn - "If Christ Had Not Been Raised"

Postlude - "Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me"

Organist for the Service was Phillip Magness.
Crucifer, Wes Beasley
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Broken Arrow, OK

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Writing this down so I don't forget it.

The pic is from last week at the nursing home, but last night I was sitting with my mom in much the same way, holding her hand, when she told me my hands were cold. (Actually they weren't--hers were--but I don't argue with my mama these days.)

I let go of her hand I was holding and put it under the blanket. A few minutes later she asked, "Where are your hands?"

I showed her. "Right here, Mom."

Then she asked, "Where are your daddy's hands?" (Earlier in the day she had asked where my daddy was. He died 22 years ago.) I told her, "Daddy's hands are in heaven, with him."

Then she asked, "Where are my [her] hands?" I couldn't help giggling a little as I showed her her own hands.

Later I was talking to Evan (my 12-year-old) and told him about the whole exchange, which I took to be indicative of her confusion. He said, "That's kind of like when I was a baby and you would ask me where everything was: Where's your nose? Where are your eyes? Where are your fingers? Where are your toes? Where are your hands?"

Oh. Wow. Confusion? Maybe. Or maybe, memories.  

Update, one year later: I just had another memory about hands that happened after this post was written. Just a little while before she died I was holding my mom's hand. Suddenly she started squeezing mine--hard! So hard! I didn't know she had that much strength left in her. I don't know if she knew she was about to go and was saying goodbye or trying to hold on. But I will never forget that squeeze. 

Keeping Vigil

My mom has come home from rehab and is now under hospice care. We have entered a time of waiting.

We grieve that it has come to this and that we were not able to bring home a healthier, stronger patient. But we also look at it as an incredible gift. We have been given the opportunity to prepare. Phone calls have been made. Visits are being planned. Most important of all, we have been provided a chance to say a proper goodbye. There are so many who don't get that.

I am not sure how long the time of waiting will be. That is in the Lord's hands. We are taking steps now to adjust our various schedules so Mom is not alone, including lining up some volunteers from church to sit with her when both my husband and I need to be at a service. With Lent upon us and Holy Week and Easter on the horizon, there are a number of times when we both have responsibilities.

If you pray, please pray for peace: peace in our home, peace for my mom, and peace at the last.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Mom

The pictures are a rerun from Mothers Day, 2009. My mom is not doing well. She has been in hospital/skilled nursing care after fainting due to a urinary tract infection about 4-1/2 weeks ago. Since that time she has lost weight and mobility. Today we found out the UTI has returned. I would appreciate your prayers for healing and encouragement.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?
 When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.
 Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.
 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.
 For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.
 And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
     Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me in.
 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.
 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

(Psalm 27)

Me and Mom leaving the hospital, July 1964
(the photo spent a number of years in a circular frame--thus, the unfortunate fading)

Christmas 1981, departing for Midnight Mass

At my college senior piano recital, 1986

Wedding, 1987

Grandma, Trevor, Caitlin, and Giselle, 1998

Grandma & Evan, 2003

Friday, February 5, 2016

First Political Post in a Long Time

The last time we had a Presidential election I began posting about it early on. This time around I have thus far not said much in this space. To date I have not officially endorsed a candidate. I think I have refrained so far because 1) I have to some degree lost my stomach for politics, and 2) Right now what I desire more than anything is conservative unity and I will take any of the GOP candidates over another Democrat term.

Having said that, here are a few thoughts for today. Early on I liked Carly Fiorina. I still do. But she has disappointed me the last few months, most recently in a Facebook post she put up yesterday that claimed she was different from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who, according to her, will do and say anything to get elected so that they can get a bigger office and more impressive title. That left a very bad taste in my mouth. I like both Cruz and Rubio and would be happy to call either of them President. I think they are in this because they want to help the country.

In contrast to Fiorina's petty sniping, Cruz today called upon ABC to allow Fiorina on the stage for the next major Republican debate. My respect for him just went up even more. That is the action of a gentleman and a statesman and I tip my hat to him.