I have told you fear is the greatest obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel. Fear stops the Good News of God. Terrorism is the attempt to make you fear. Terrorism uses violence to bring fear. Politicians use fear to get you to vote for them. If they can get you to know fear then they can tell you they have or are the answer. Preachers use fear to get you saved. Holding hell over you to believe what they know as the answer keeps you beholden to them.
Fear is a tool which is used to control you. I think you could use this morning's gospel as a tool to promote fear. It would be easy to spend this time talking about the bridesmaids who were not ready and lost their place, and if you aren’t careful, you will lose your place too. Much of religion and much of Christian religion is used to bring fear and therefore, conversion. In much of politics and our news and in religion we hear the same thing. It is the mantra of a terrorist. Believe the way I believe or die. I will not tell you that. I believe God’s grace is too big.
What I want to talk about is the opposite. I think I spend too much time thinking about the bridesmaids who were not prepared; when what I probably need to hear is the truth of those who were prepared. Surely, they had the same fears that the last bridesmaids did. What separates them, other than having enough oil?
My life has been filled with people who have stepped past fear and have made a difference in the world. I want to share with you a person who taught me what ministry is and she taught me what it means to seize this day, this moment.
I got to know Daisy when I was the assistant at St. Thaddeus in Aiken. I had been ordained for a year or so and I had the great joy to bring communion to the nursing home where she lived. Each Friday for three years we shared the sacrament. I would meet her in her room at 1:00, after lunch and we would have communion. Daisy was English; she was not quite five feet tall. She had an infectious smile and a dry and wonderful sense of humor. She had to have a leg amputated and was in a wheel chair. I remember when she told me she would have the surgery. I said "I’m so sorry Daisy". Her response was, “People have been trying to push me around most of my life and now I’m going to let them.”
Daisy and I were at two very different places in life. I was in the midst of accumulating. Alicia and I had only been married for a short time and we were buying stuff; house, cars, washing machine and dryer and the stuff you think that you need. Daisy had almost everything that I thought was important taken from her. Daisy had moved from England as a young girl. She married an American. She had no family in the states. Her only son had been killed in the second World War. He was buried in France. She had never seen his grave, but friends brought her pictures. Her husband of 48 years had died. She didn’t have much money and sold her home, car and all that she owned so that she could afford to move into a small nursing home outside Aiken. It was there that she had lived for almost ten years before I got to know her.
I tell you about Daisy because she understood her life as full and abundant in ways that I did not. She understood what it meant to seize the day and to thank God and to share her bounty with others. She understood what it means to be a steward and to give of herself out of the bounty of God’s grace. She didn’t know she was poor. She never thought of what she didn’t have. She shared out of abundance and not out of poverty, even though the world considered her poor.
Every morning Daisy got up and dressed. After breakfast, she wheeled herself to the front lobby and positioned herself beside the front door to greet people as they came in. The way she explained it was that people were coming into her home and everyone should be greeted with a smile; after all they were coming to visit people who had problems. She took it as a vocation, a calling.
After lunch, she would go to the nurse’s station and ask for a list of people who were depressed or sick. She then would visit those people. She hoped that her visit would bring them a little comfort. Daisy taught me what it meant to be a minister.
Daisy could have lived in fear. I think it would have been easy for her to be sorry for her losses, where she was and the problems she had. It would have been so easy to feel sorry for herself and sit alone, scared and angry. She instead lived a life of abundance and was willing to share in that abundance.
This gospel is in part a reminder that we are called not to fear, but to proclaim God’s bounty. Daisy lived her life doing that. She was all in. Every day of her life was an opportunity to be a bearer of the Good News. She was a poor woman but Daisy never gave out of her poverty but always out of the bounty of God’s grace. She thought she was rich, she lived like
she was rich, she responded to the world like she was rich, she proclaimed God’s love like she was rich, because she was.