Tomorrow I give a brief service for a case study I was given. The woman in the case study is a 74 year old woman who people considered a little crazy — people did their best to avoid her. She lived and died alone. When she dies, I learn from her nephew, who also serves as her caregiver that she was part of my church. She has no other family or friends. What follows is my Eulogy… one might call it a eulogy for Eleanor Rigby. both are very close to the same story
Let us read from the gospel of Matthew 25:31–46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ 46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
I did not know Martha Fenton — I still do not know Martha Fenton. When I learned that I pastored her church, I was surprised, I never met the woman. Even in the best of times, death is a tragedy that is difficult to accept. Everything I know tells me that Martha’s life was the real tragedy.
Martha was an invisible woman. When she walked down the street, people turned their eyes away so they would not notice her. When she spoke, they would stop their ears so they could not hear. Martha wanted anyone to hear her, but there was no one. When one of her neighbors would notice her, it was to play a cruel joke on the crazy old lady.
A couple days ago, I learned that someone “from my church” had passed away. It turned out that even though she identified with my church, I did not know this woman. As I got to see her tragic life, I realized I missed a great opportunity. I stand here as one of the goats mentioned in the passage I read. I did not visit Martha, I did not show her mercy. You see — though I preach about Christ, she was the icon of Christ that God had given us. Like ever one else, I never saw or heard this image of Christ.
I have faith that our Lord is merciful. I stand here praying: “Lord have mercy on me a sinner”, knowing God is merciful. If Christ will have mercy on one such as me, who denied the image of Christ when this image was so close — I have no doubt that God will show mercy to one who experienced no mercy on as she stood as Christ’s image on Earth. I thank God for forgiveness.
I also thank God that not all of us are goats. There are those who feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, and clothe the destitute. There are those who somehow look at the invisible person and see Jesus. I pray that with God’s help I will learn from these people. Until that day comes, I must remember that Christ was here, and I was too busy to see or hear.
You might have noticed, along the passage on the sheep and the goats, I shared the song Elenore Rigby. Last night, I was Father McKenzie, writing a sermon which no one would hear. This song haunts me, because it tells me the first step of change — to LOOK at all the lonely people. This song breaks my heart, I see those such as Martha who represent Jesus for us put out of sight and out of mind. I see it is not only Martha, but ALL the lonely people. I pray Martha in her death will teach me to see.
When Father McKenzie performed the ceremony, offering Elenore Rigby the human dignity in death she was not offered in life, the song says: “no one was saved.” I stand here praying that this is not true. Did I see Jesus too late, or is Jesus merciful? I will go forward putting my faith that our Lord is merciful. Christ died, that humanity might be saved. Martha Fenton died so that my eyes would be opened to Christ’s image. Martha died that I might be saved.
Merciful Lord Jesus, I commit the spirit of Martha Fenton to your care. I pray that she finds all the love, Joy, and mercy in Heaven that she did not find on Earth. Lord, forgive those of us who did not recognize you in Martha — we do not know what we have done. Teach us to recognize your image whenever we encounter one of the least of these — AMEN.