I met Kathie Bowe for the first time three years ago this spring, when she came to St. Augustine’s Easter Vigil service. It’s a magical night, my favorite service of the year. We gather for every Easter Vigil on the night before Easter Day, processing into a darkened church, with candles and chanting and a fire; we read the stories from scripture that remind us of who we are – stories of creation and deliverance and wisdom and salvation. We sing the first alleluia since Lent began.
Kathie wasn’t a member of St. Augustine’s quite yet, on that night three years ago, though that wouldn’t be too far off (at her son Charley’s – and our then-warden’s – persistent invitation). She said some generous things about the worship that night, and the music, high praise from someone for whom music mattered so much, who had sung with some pretty gifted choirs in her lifetime.
A few weeks later I met Kathie at her home at Three Crowns for lunch and a chance to get to know her better. She had some thoughts about church and politics and music, which she shared with me between bites of a really good lobster bisque, hearkening back to her life in Maine. She showed me pictures and told stories. She talked about how very proud she was of her boys and their families, how much she loved her grandchildren. She pointed out the planters on her back patio where she would plant flowers when the ground warmed up enough. She had a particular sort of unvarnished candor and unsentimental hospitality that reminded me of the people in my life I find real and trustworthy.
When she did join this parish, Kathie began to serve as a lector. Lectors are the people who read lessons from scripture in our worship on Sunday mornings. On the Sundays Kathie read, the congregation was captivated as we listened to her sharing the word. When she read the Ten Commandments in church last year, people sat at attention. “You shall not murder!” she said. And I remember sitting up very straight in my pew, and thinking: “No! No, I promise, I won’t!”
Last year at our Easter Vigil, Kathie read the story of creation that we heard her son Charley read from Genesis just a little while ago. We quoted that reading back to her, beginning at a rather raucous Easter dinner the next day, and continuing all year long. The phrase that wouldn’t go away? “It was good.” And it was. The thing that strikes me about both the stories I’ve heard about Kathie and the experiences of her that I witnessed is her deep delight in the creation of which she spoke so amazingly at that Easter Vigil. It was good. Indeed, it was very good.
It was good, the life she built for her family, together with her husband John, and their sons, Tony, Sandy, Charley, and Rob.
It was good, the beauty she sought and found in music and literature, the standard of ethics she hoped for, and was willing to dig in and work for, in civic life.
It was good, the quick humor she wielded in matter-of-fact ways.
It was good, her life right here in recent years, the chance to really know her grandchildren and be a part of their lives, to live in a community where she found kinship with you.
And it is good, that image we have of her standing at the edge of the water in God’s creation, the sun and the wind on her face as she looks out onto the horizon.
The gospel passage today is another sort of Easter story in this Easter season. As you heard it read, two disciples meet Jesus along the road, and they don’t know that it’s him. He walks some distance with them, and explains and interprets scripture in a way that might have led those disciples to give perhaps just a little bit more credence to the testimony of women at the tomb saying that Jesus is alive. The disciples' eyes are kept from recognizing him, though. But they also don’t want him to leave. “Stay with us,” the disciples ask. "Stay." And he does.
Very near to the end of that passage, Jesus sits at table with those disciples, his friends, the people with whom he has shared his life and his ministry over these past years. At their meal together, he blesses bread, breaks it, and gives it to them. And in the flash of a moment, their hearts burn within them. They know. God is there, right there with them, in the person of Jesus. And it is good.
Sometimes, as was true for those disciples, those moments can come even at a time of profound loss:
…praying last rites in an emergency room just before a cold midnight in February
…a family gathered together the next night, hands held, to pray their beloved mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, “Nonkey,” out of this life and into the next
In the flash of a moment, God is right there.
Tony and Sandy and Charley and Rob, you who are her beloved sons; and you who are her beloved daughters-in-law; and you who are her beloved grandchildren; and you who are her beloved family, and friends – I call you to look for those times in your lives when the beauty of creation is inescapable, when that which is holy draws very near and is offered to you. Watch for those times when, in the flash of a moment, your heart burns within you, and your own eyes are opened.
God is right here.
And it is good. Indeed, it is very good.