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Bringing in the sheaves

by davesandel on July 25th, 2022

Monday, July 25, 2022

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

            (click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Bringing in the sheaves

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels.

On a quiet Monday afternoon in mid-July I sat with my sister while we thumbed through journals written by Mom and Aunt Mary. The sun burned through the west window of the library in Mom and Dad’s house. The library has been mostly emptied now, after overflowing with books of every age and kind for decades. The beautiful maple wood shelves glisten.

It is difficult for us to read Aunt Mary’s sentences. As she got older, her impatience with pain sped her writing up. But we remembered her sitting with us as little kiddos, singing, “Let me go, let me go!” and we held on tighter and she laughed and laughed. She was well over six feet tall, and her arms were strong.

We took trips with her. She didn’t marry, although in her early journals she sometimes yearns for a friend as tall as she is. “Few and far between,” she wrote. But that blessed us. She took time on summer vacations from her teaching to take us to Chicago and on train trips. She and I went to Washington DC, and I stared at Pittsburgh’s steel mills and skyscrapers, late night lights flying by, then gone back into the dark. The train rumbled on east.

Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Years before she died, a spider bit her. That bite nearly killed her then, and left her weak for the rest of life. Perhaps it disabled part of her immune system. At any rate, later when she had a knee replacement the new knee became badly infected and had to be removed. From then on Aunt Mary was permanently in a wheelchair.

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death, for the sake of Jesus.

Aunt Mary’s library overflowed with art books, theology books, and books about ministering to those in poverty and pain. That’s what she did all her life, mostly in parts of St. Louis, from a second floor walk-up with too steep, too narrow stairs. When she could no longer climb the stairs, she returned to Lincoln and retirement, to her home town, to Friendship House and its elevators.

But then her own pain came, and her own poverty. Mom and Dad helped her, and her many friends around the country helped too. Still, in the incandescent pain and frustration of her life in those days, she struggled with her faith, and with her patience.

Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. Although we go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, we shall come back rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

When she moved into Friendship House, Aunt Mary brought with her a case of small books titled Prison to Praise. An army colonel wrote story after story of his experience with the transformative power of praise, especially in dire circumstances. She gave me a copy, and Mary Kay, and John. And every neighbor on her floor, and everyone on every floor of Friendship House. I read my copy. It was wonderful.

Jesus asked James and John, the sons of thunder, “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.”

But they didn’t know. They had no idea. They did drink the chalice of struggle, persecution, death, and of the joy everlasting. As did Aunt Mary. She will forever be our hero.

At Life Community in Mahomet, Liz ended our service yesterday with Moses’ benediction.

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Those are words I hear from Aunt Mary even now, shadowy in the skies of heaven, tall and strong, always with the warmest smile. She makes the sign of the cross over us, and we rest in peace.

(2 Corinthians 4, Psalm 126, John 15, Matthew 20)

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