Rev. Dr. Anna Verlee Copeland's Blog

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April 15 Post

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“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” -- Jeremiah 29:11

Unlike my mother, who couldn’t see her long, slow slide into dementia, my father experienced it with the urgency of a storm brewing over the Nebraska prairie. Every time we spoke he transmitted another piece of information to me, grasping for the clarity of his previously dependable, engineering mind.

“Don’t forget to cancel the insurance on the truck. Be sure you get a refund from the oxygen company; they charged me for a service I never used. Remember to check the freezer for important papers before you haul it to the dump. Make an appointment with the attorney, I forgot one of the grandchildren in my will,” he said.

I could feel his sense of urgency to the end, until that moment when he had said and done all he could say and do. Finally, all that remained was to remind me of what I already knew. “I love you,” he said. And it was sufficient.

Jesus tries every which way to prepare his followers for life after he’s gone. He tells them stories about the vine and the branches, about seeds that have to die before they can flourish. He tells them in advance that as he is about to suffer, and that too will suffer. For the same people who wanted to silence him will want to silence them.

After Jesus reminded his followers of all they had seen, and heard, and learned from their time together, there came that time when there was nothing left to say except that he loved them and wanted them to love one another. He promised to send God’s Spirit to comfort them, so that they would not be as orphans. And Jesus gifted them with God’s peace that earth cannot destroy.

God promises us a hopeful future. Even when dementia steals our memory and we forget God, God never forgets us. Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to Christ, the Lord of Life.

Prayer: As the days grow long and the way more difficult, thank you for loving us to the end. Amen

God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,

Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland

April 8 Post

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It happens every year. Try as I might to ward off the blues, they settle unwelcomed like fog on water during Holy Week, and linger here. You’d think one year might be different. After all these years as a minister, you would think I could remain cheerful. I know how the story turns out. Easter is coming. Nevertheless, you simply can’t get to Easter without going through Good Friday.

No matter what angle you take on the story, it’s deeply distressing. I avoid R rated movies with excessive violence, but there’s no way to make the story of Jesus’ denial, betrayal, desertion, trial and murder anything but traumatic. But that’s not really what gets to me every year.

What always bothers me most is that nagging wonderment of where I might have been in the crowd? There are so many key characters to consider, those named and those who remain un-named. Would I have been among those who took back roads home to avoid getting caught in the traffic jam around Calvary as Jesus and the two criminals were being executed at the edge of town?

Some years I worry that I act like Peter, pretending that I don’t know Jesus. It’s not that I would say we haven’t met so much as that I sometimes remain silent rather than speak up for the sake of faith. This year I’m experiencing more grief than usual. I’m feeling a little Mary Magdalene-like, undone by events unfolding that I cannot control. I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet, stunned into silence. My beloved teacher and friend is about to be taken from me and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

To make matters worse, Jesus stands his ground. Instead of fleeing the city and taking all of us with him, he stops for dinner and washes our feet. He attends to our road weary stories and listens to our fears. He feeds us bread and wine and promises us that whenever we break bread together for the rest of our days, he will be right here with us. He comforts us in advance of our loss. “I will not abandon you,” he says in the Gospel according to John. “I will not leave you as orphans. My peace I leave you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Still, I’m not feeling it. I’m cranky. I’m a little depressed. If you see me looking distracted at the Publix, or scowling when out for a walk, don’t worry. It will pass in just about four days. I know this from experience. The best we can hope for this week is to keep one another company, to do what Jesus asked us to do: break bread together, though apart; pray; stay awake through the long and lonely night; and when the show is over, remember Him, always, even to the end of time.

Holy Week Prayer: Dear Lord, grant us courage to stand by you in faith, through the dark and lonely hour, through the fear and grief to come. Grant us sufficient faith to believe what we cannot yet see, that you are the Lord of our Life and the Light of our World. Amen

God’s Grace, Mercy and Peace,

Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Interim Senior Minister
Community Church of Vero Beach