Sally: Proclaiming the peace of God

IMG_3369Catherine Williams gave the inspiring message at the funeral for Sally Ross on Monday, April 28. Here is the text of her sermon, based in part on Sally’s obituary and on Psalm 139.

At one point Catherine quoted the obituary, “Sally was committed to building a supportive church community. She was an active member of the PUMC, sang soprano for the choir, served on numerous committees, assisted with countless fundraisers and did practically everything but preach.”

It is this last phrase – did practically everything but preach – that I find interesting. I am a currently a third year doctoral student of Homiletics (preaching) at Princeton seminary, and one of the things I have constantly wrestled with in my study is a working definition of preaching that I find satisfactory.

I’m thinking of this dictum that has been dubiously attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi that says, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”  On that basis, I do think that Sally did a little preaching herself.

But there’s one other message Sally preached that quilters and crafters may comprehend more easily. Again Psalm 139 is my reference point because the Psalmist speaks of a God who is involved in the details of our lives. The Psalmist reflects, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”

It was as though the Psalmist could see God leaning over a masterpiece, working with deft, nimble hands to create a unique, one-of-a-kind person – right from the womb. Anyone of the unique, one-of-a-kind quilts or handmade shawls and garments made by Sally is a picture that paints a thousand words of God’s intimate, creative involvement in our lives and indeed in the world.

Yes, I would contend that Sally did everything in church, including a little preaching. She may have found this notion hilarious, but she did. She proclaimed the unconditional love of God through her friendships. She proclaimed the wisdom of God through her timely counsel. She proclaimed the steadfastness of God through her persistence and resilience in her fight with cancer. She proclaimed the peace of God, even in her dying….

For the complete text, click here.