“My friends, I don’t have a sermon for you this morning. I know that will disappoint some and thrill others, so ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘your welcome.’ I tried to prepare a sermon on the familiar. Instead, I’ve decided to tell you a story on the not so familiar."
One day a man, a good man, a godly man, was taking out the trash when he saw a young woman by the side of a dumpster. She’d had a life growing within her, but the life died, and so, in a way she was dying too; she was half-dead. Although she looked like a child herself, she was not. Her eyes told the story of years of suffering. This good man dropped all of his plans, everything that everyone around him thought so important, and took her in his arms and carried her home. The man and his wife nursed the young woman, doing what they could, praying as best they knew how. The woman regained enough strength to tell the man and his wife her name: Isabel.
What the woman did not know was that many years before, the good man and his wife had a little girl named Isabel. They had dreamed of her; only God knew how much they loved her. One Sunday morning, as the good man prepared to go and speak of holy things, he backed out of the garage and did not see Isabel playing behind the car. She was rushed to the hospital, but her injuries were too severe. Isabel died.
The good man dreamed that one day God would give Isabel back to them. And so, when Isabel was found among the trash, this man believed his dream-prayers had finally been answered. But after two days of caring for her, the man and his wife awoke to find Isabel was gone. It was sadness upon sadness, simply too great to bear. The man found he could no longer speak of holy things; he counted himself among the half-dead.
One day, the half-dead man met another man who spoke of holy things; he said ‘if you cannot speak of those things, maybe you can do those things.’ And so the half-dead man did try, and one thing led to another and maybe the God who is great and the God who is good saw those holy things and believed they were as good as words, maybe better.
The new friend who spoke of holy things asked for his help; a woman had been killed, and in the face of tragedy, two together are stronger than one. As the two men stood before the young woman’s body, the good man, the man God still believed in, realized it was Isabel. Whether or not it was his daughter was not the point; her name was Isabel.
If you were to ask this man, this good man, about this story today he would say ‘there are our plans which most of us confidently travel in the direction of, and then there is life, usually somewhere to the side, asking us to pause and really live. I longed to hold my daughter throughout her life, but that was not to be the story. I did hold her at the beginning and in some way I was able to hold her again in the middle, when she had been discarded, almost lost…and I was able to hold her again at the end, to tell her goodbye and how beautiful she was.’
And it was then that Jordan Ross, pastor of Grace Church, began to weep. He wept for good friends in Kansas who were at that very moment standing before a casket holding a beloved father. He wept for a young college girl, gifted with the compassion of the saints of old, who now sat in fear at a violent world that had suddenly become much closer. He wept for a military widow and her two sons who were on this day observing the anniversary of the death of their most loved soldier. He wept for a man without a home who was just moving into a new town with new faces but possibly the same old prejudices. He wept for a woman named Isabel and the suffering she endured at the hands of those who used her and those who ignored her; who in this very second he prayed was safely in the arms of Jesus. And the pastor wept for a good man, a godly man, who was not far away placing fresh lilacs on the grave of a little girl that he and his wife hoped to see again one day, some day, when all, when everything that is broken is pieced back together again and everything is beautiful.