A homily for Teresa Jeanne Larson
August 7, 2013
There are a great many wonderful things that will be said about Teresa today. And more that could be said that won’t be said but fill our hearts and minds. All of these tributes will be offered without Teresa’s permission. As we all know she was the last one who wanted ever to draw attention to her self. I would like to be funny in my remarks and I know Teresa would appreciate that, but I just can’t get there yet. Perhaps, together we can. Now that her suffering is over and she has entered into the fullness of eternal life, we can say joyfully, through our tears and aching hearts, all the goodness that we witnessed through her exemplary life.
First, though, I want to say something about God and cancer. I will try to do this briefly since I promised Mike I would. And if I don’t, he will let me know by taping his watch and looking at me a certain way. I’ve seen both before.
Teresa was born and baptized in God’s love, she was nurtured by her parents – Nancy and Del – in God’s love, experienced the love of God in Christ as she grew up in her home congregation in Kansas, a people that are in prayer with us right now and will view the video of this service later. I’m certain she experienced the embodiment of God’s love in her beloved friends and her family who have exemplified what it is to be family for one another always, and in particular in time of suffering. Our hearts has been moved by your love – Cindy, Bob, Janelle and Marisa with your parents Del and Nancy.
Teresa embraced the love of God that nurtured her throughout her life and, as a bright witness to that love, began sharing it with others precisely in the way in which she lived her life. We call this embodied love – it is the form God’s love takes in an ordinary human being. In so doing, she showed us what it is to be a faithful Christian – not so much by her words, though she was always eloquent, but by the way she lived her life. For twenty years, she lived out this love in marriage to her beloved Mike, and together they nurtured Meredith and Nicole. The love of Christ that sustained Teresa’s faith, is the same love that she expressed in the way she lived her life; including her battles with cancer that ripped our hearts out in sorrow.
The strange and often mysterious consequences of God’s choice to allow this mortal life to be free is the reality of pain and suffering, including cancer, whose origins we still don’t know and researchers are spending nearly every waking hour trying to determine. It is a hard reality, along with a host of many other horrible diseases about which there is nothing good. It is the heart-breaking cost of love.
So let me be as clear as possible now and tie the knot in case some are wondering with just anger and deep hurt. God did not plan for Teresa’s death from cancer. There is nothing in God’s plan that targets people for pain and suffering. God loves us from the beginning and by his Spirit sustains us in this mortal life with all its sorrow and grief, as well as joy and celebration. All these things are cost of freedom. It is a huge mystery that we live in. Scripture says that when we have no words to express our needs, the Spirit of Christ prays within us with groans that are too deep for words.
During her and her family’s life at Saint Mark, which began after Mike’s mother, Susan died of cancer and was buried there, Teresa was a bright shining example of a Christian witness. She nurtured Mer and Nicole in the faith of the church that included supporting them in every youth activity possible from mission trips to worship, Sunday School and youth group. She took it upon her self to begin and lead a children’s choir that lifted the hearts of our congregation. She led the capital campaign to renovate our sanctuary. We both agreed these meetings might be a bit more lively with wine, and that did in fact occur at the celebration of that campaign. Thank you Teresa. She served brilliantly as an ordained deacon offering care and support to everyone and especially those in need. She did all these things with her usual warmth, inviting smile and sly sense of humor and unbeatable style. Who could ever resist the smile of Teresa Larson – it was as if Christ himself were smiling upon us. Of course, Christ himself was smiling upon us through Teresa. That is what it means to embody the love of God. She did exactly that and now she has entered into the joy of her Master in the realm of eternity where there is no pain or sorrow and all the tears are wiped away.
I left some things out, I’m certain; but I did make that promise to Mike. Others can say more about her extraordinary professional life. So let me conclude with a line from the song by Mumford and Sons that we played in worship last week: Awake My Soul.
In these bodies we will live
In these bodies we will die
The way you invest your love
is the way you invest your life
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
You were made to meet your Maker.
This is remarkably close to Jesus’ teaching. It is precisely the way Teresa’s invested her love and her life. For this we are deeply grateful to God who blessed her life with love that she shared so generously with us.
May this same God who weeps with the suffering, bless our lives with sustaining love that we might share so generously with each other in our time of sorrow and into the future.
I like to think such generous sharing of God’s love among us all will bring that wonderful smile to Teresa now in her eternal rest.