II Corinthians 9:6-8; 12:8-9
(OPENING) This is an “open letter” to Erin’s classmates. If it makes sense to them, the time of these words being spoken will have been quality time. If it makes sense to those of us who are older than her classmates, that’s “icing on the cake.”
In one important way, I cannot tell you why Erin has died. I know that a disease developed in her body; and I know that the medicine and treatment, after some years, could not effectively fight the disease for her body’s health.
Erin’s parents have said they do not think it’s helpful for us to spend a lot of time asking “Why?” I agree with them. It is o.k. to ask God, “Why?” but God may not give good or satisfactory answers to “Why?” A man named Job is the major character in a book in the Bible where his children, probably older than Erin, died. He asked God, “Why?” and God was willing to hear his question, but God did not answer the “why” part. Instead God wanted to talk about life and God’s relationship with people and the world.
Science can give us a medical and biological answer about Erin’s disease, but God doesn’t give much of an answer. People often try to tell each other “why” when something bad happens, but our answers really are not God’s answers. That means we can talk among ourselves about “why?”, but the Bible offers other (and, we can say) healthier possibilities.
One possibility is the “going forward” possibility. That was Erin’s choice.
She was made that way. Her only gear was a forward gear. Her model left the factory and drove for eleven years with no reverse gear.
Her mom and dad have said she was not so much a “noun” like “girl,” “student,” “friend,” “soccer player,” etc. She was not so much an adjective like “energetic,” “inspiring,” “caring,” “witty,” etc. She was more an action verb: Go. Do. Study. Visit. Play. Research. Make. Persuade. Love.
It is o.k. to say, “I’m very sad because Erin only got to live eleven years.” When we say that, it’s true. And it’s easier to think, “It’s not fair for Erin to have only eleven years and for me to have a bunch more.” It’s not fair, but I think that’s not what Erin would want us getting hung up on. Our sadness is real. Erin’s life now lives in God’s life. We cannot see that with our eyes. Yet living in God’s life, she lives as an influence in our lives as she has been our friend and has influenced us so powerfully.
I said “going forward” was Erin’s choice for living. True, she did not seem to have a “reverse” gear. “Going forward,” though, means more than the opposite of going in reverse. “Going forward,” in the last two years, has been a phrase used by many adults in government and business. They start sentences with it, saying, “Going forward, here’s the way we will work.” Or they end sentences with it, saying, “Here’s the way we will work going forward.”
Erin had her own way of going forward. On fun days and hard days she was a “doer going forward.” Going forward, we will miss her. We are truly sad. We are also more alive going forward because Erin has showed us her own way of going forward.
Once upon a time, a person asked Jesus how best to live life. Jesus answered him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ And, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Erin believed in going forward the way Jesus taught.
Sometimes you see some letters: “WWJD?” I think Erin would be the first to tell you and me, “Don’t live your life asking, ‘WWED?’ (What Would Erin Do?) Maybe even don’t ask ‘WWJD?’ because Jesus doesn’t live exactly in our time the way he lived in Palestine two thousand years ago; but going forward, as you love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, always ask, ‘WCID?’ (What Can I Do? -- as Jesus taught and as Erin and other faithful persons have shown me?).” There will be plenty for you to do going forward in terms of action verbs; and nothing you can or will do is more important than loving God and self and neighbor as Jesus taught with his own life for God’s people.
So, if going forward, your life is connected to God’s love for people and connected to God’s love for this whole world, then you will honor Erin’s life among us, you will honor God’s loving through her life, and you will honor God’s loving through your life.
You may have noticed the picture on the bulletin cover (reproduced below). In that picture, people are serving God with their talents. (At the bottom left of the picture, Erin’s face and her dogs, Willie and Teddie, are added by a “photo-shop” technique.) Both before Erin’s face is added and after her face is added, the picture means that all of God’s people have good, holy gifts to offer with their lives. Erin did. Going forward, God helps you and me and others to offer our gifts in life as well, when we are 11 years old, and 21, 31, 41, 51, 81, 91 years old.
Offering gifts through our lives, going forward in God’s love: Let’s do it!
-- All honor and praise be to God.