The Sunday Sermon: Remembering Lucy Larrabee

Good Morning! I am given two tasks this morning: first to engage the scriptures and second to remember Lucy Larrabee.

So let us pray…
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be
acceptable O God in your sight!

Choose Life!
Once upon a time, about the 7th century in words attributed to him Moses said simply “ Choose Life!” Love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, observe his commandments, and ordinances, so that you (and your descendants ) will live!

If tradition holds, as reported in Deuteronomy, Moses said these words on the eve of his death, and at the moment the Israelites were to enter the promised land. In some 34 chapters before his death, Moses spoke about God’s work in a challenging world, and about how his people could best be a part of it.

There will be blessings and curses, death and adversity, and more, he said! But I ask you to commit to LOVE and to hold fast to God, amid the challenges –For that is what means life and length of days…and life in the land that God gave you…. !

These are thoroughly modern words that continue to speak to us now on this day, September 8, 2019, that we celebrate the life, ministry and service of Lucy Larrabee, loyal daughter of St. Paul’s.

Lucy made her choice to choose life in God’s loving care a long, long time ago. She wanted us to celebrate her life here in a regular Sunday morning worship service among her brothers and sisters in Christ. Her community here are those who joined her over the years in their willingness to live into a new covenant with Jesus Christ, and confront the challenges inherent in a life of discipleship.

Jesus’s words, the strong straightforward kind in the Hebrew language, like ‘you must hate Mother Father, wife and children, brothers and sisters; hate even life itself, and give away all possessions,’ DO DISTURB AND UPSET US!

Dean Penny reminded us a few weeks ago that expected relationships in a family system might well be frayed. We might be called to re-think our relationships to wealth and poverty, and, also, be willing to accept the time of our death in the assurance of eternal life.

Lucy’s faith accepted all of that! She knew that becoming a disciple of Christ meant letting go of anything that kept her from putting Christ first. She had found a new Cathedral family to support her on that journey. And she was content.

Listen to her words as I read from her poetry left for us.

Dear God,
Give us strength in our daily encounter with life
And all its struggles
Help sustain our life
with love and affection
for one another.

So how is it that I stand here as your preacher on the day we honor Lucy?

As part of the Cathedral family I am pleased to be a member of our pastoral care team, along with Stephen’s Ministers, Eucharist Visitors, and many other faithful people who serve in lay and ordained ministries of pastoral care.

In 2015, Lucy had been told about her diagnosis –Pancreatic cancer– and given a short time to live! We did not know each other well, but as we both live in West North County — thirty minutes north on a good day– I volunteered to be her regular pastoral care clergy and hurried on over with the Eucharist. Lucy met me at the door — calm, welcoming, a gracious hostess. As moved through the living room to the Great Room, a living/dining space facing the ocean I noticed ship’s prints and oil paintings of ancestors on the walls.

She had already set out her prayer book– worn, yellowing pages– some pages ready to detach (slip away) from the binding…especially around the Psalms and page 355, the first page of Holy Eucharist, Rite II!

I set out my communion set and we shared Eucharist, and the gospel from the previous Sunday. I repeated the sermon highlights as best I could. We worshipped together.

She accepted her diagnosis as a matter of medical fact .

Listen again to her poetry — in 2015.

(I am) In my solitude to wander
The state of things to ponder
Searching for a balanced state
My life path is off the normal gait
To let go of pain and sadness
To lessen the position of madness
To find what one loves again
To embrace the joy of our lives.

And then, our visit over, Lucy whisked me outside to see her camper because she was preparing to travel north to the Sequoia’s for a week’s trip with a friend!

As the months and years passed, Julie Lena, Lucy’s companion and caregiver, began the tradition of a delicious afternoon treat after my Eucharist visits. We, in our Episcopal tradition, might call it an “agape high tea” of delicious scones or pastries. For Lucy this was a rarely permitted treat! Julie was rigorous in her care! She counted every calorie, every carb, every organic vegetable, and sugar molecule on Lucy’s menu.

Over tea, Lucy always asked for news of her Cathedral family first. Lucy wanted everyone at God’s table. She was so very proud to be part of the group that supported women’s ordination in San Diego, and showed me her scrapbook of our own Lee Teed’s ordination.
We shared news of our roots and relatives in Delaware and our shared love of Maine where Lucy’s beloved Cousin Cindy raised two goats — one named the notorious RBG– and more than twenty turkeys!

Of course, Lucy vigorously critiqued the politics and leadership of the day. If you know Lucy at all — you know that she favored some administrations over others!

And since both Julie and Lucy honored Jesus as the absolute center of their lives our (theological) discussions about faith following the Gospel prompts could last an hour.

Often in our conversations, I thought to myself “wait a minute” who is the pastoral caregiver here, as Lucy, with subtlety, effectively used her gifts for active listening, empathy, compassion, and strategic silence to minister to me!

Some days we ended early because Julie and Lucy were about to go off on an adventure to the yogurt parlor(their favorite), the flower shop, to visit a friend and drop off a card, drive to the Cathedral to drop off her pledge. Her ministry continued to be one of particularity–kindness, small acts of kindness one by one…

Again hear her humorous poetry:

…It must be a thirst, for putting someone else first
That starts with a kicker,
Within one’s ticker
When speaking in matters of love.

Hers was the good life as the Wisdom Psalmist describes it today. It was A life of happiness — not the instant warm, fluffy, or ecstatic kind portrayed in today’s advertising… but a life of ashre — pure joy– from the verb shr. It means to go forward, to advance… Lucy had found her center in relationship with God giving her a way of happiness that grants us the freedom to develop as human beings no matter what the challenges before us.

The psalmist and modern translators offer yet another insight in the call to meditate on God’s law day and night and ask us to understand this call not as blind obedience to God’s word but a call translated as hgh–groan utter, speak or plot — a call to the committed life that demonstrates God’s presence in the world.

Lucy fell peacefully asleep in Christ on August 11, 2019.

Her legacy to us is this:
Often when asked to think about commitment, we think outreach in a specific sense at a specific time and place with a specific group of people. Our minds go to showers, eradicating homelessness, the pastoral care of wounded warriors, building affordable housing — it is a long list– -all necessary and imp

ortant ministries.

But Lucy’s chosen life and ministry reminds us of another kind of outreach.Hers was the loving outreach of all members of our Cathedral family to each other. She valued the fact that all of us–lay and ordained- – can listen to one another; then offer comfort, support, solace, glimpses of sustaining faith, anytime, anywhere!

As a congregation, she would call us to take a walk in the world with our eyes and ears open for any brother or sister within our walls, or without, who might need our attention, love, and affection; anyone who might need to hear the good news we know; Jesus’ gift of everlasting life to us through his death and resurrection.

Godspeed, dear Lucy, as you move to another part of the Communion of Saints. We will miss you!

The Rev. Susan Astarita

To Those I love
by Isla Paschal Richardson

If I should ever leave you
whom I love
To go along the Silent Way,
grieve not,
Nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk
Of me as I were
beside you there.
(I’d come – I’d come,
could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief
be barriers?)
And when you hear a song
or see a bird
I loved, please do not let
the thought of me
Be sad … For I am
loving you just as
I always have …

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