A Sermon for the Requiem Mass for Susan Foster Carr, preached at St. Vincent's Cathedral by the Rev'd Ryan S. Mills, STS
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
“What then shall we say to this?”
First, we offer you Scott, you Fr. Foster, you Mr. Foster, to each one of you, Sue’s family members and friends gathered here; we offer you our deepest condolences, we offer you our prayers here tonight, we have come to honor your mother, your sister, your daughter--to honor Sue, and to commend her to our merciful God.
But what then shall we say to this?
We could start by sharing stories of Sue as a child. Mr. Foster you’ve told me the story of a time you and your family went on vacation from
So what then shall we say to this?
We could tell stories of Sue as a caring single mom to you, easygoing, relaxed, a survivor. Scott, I am sure your care and service for others as a Paramedic was learned early on at home with your mom. We could tell stories of how Sue had a knack for welcoming people into her home, she was a caregiver for many. Whoever you were, whatever trouble you were in, whenever you had nowhere else to go, you could go to Sue’s house. There was always a spare bedroom or a spare couch, she would welcome all into her home.
But what then shall we say to this?
We could say that Sue was an ordinary human being, which means she was broken and trapped in sin like all the rest of us. It’s true that like many people she spent many years with no interest in God or his Church. But like her childhood adventure in New York showed, while she wandered out ahead, seemingly separated, her loving Father, her loving heavenly Father never took his eyes off of her, never removed his care and attention from her life. And a few months ago after Sue had undergone surgery for a brain tumor, you Fr. Foster sat with her in her hospital room, when seemingly out of nowhere she asked you, “What would I have to do to be baptized?”
And so you presented her with the basics of the Christian faith: that our God, our heavenly Father who created the world has taken on flesh in his Son Jesus Christ. “That the God who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for as all, will also give us all things with him.” That on the Cross Jesus has beaten the power of sin and death forever, that he is risen, is ascended, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that he will come again to judge the quick and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. And even now, to those who believe, in the power of the Holy Spirit that kingdom is already a reality, those who believe and are baptized have already passed from death to life, John’s gospel tells us, death has no more power over those who believe. Death is not the last word, but Life, eternal life won by our Lord who is the way, and the truth, and the Life.
You shared all these things: by the gift of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit she immediately confessed her belief in Him.
And so the next night, as you all gathered with as a family in that hospital room, Sue was baptized with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. She wept---all her burdens lifted and nailed to the Cross. All the promises of God, poured out by not only a priest of the Church but by her little brother. You as a family printed out a certificate of baptism, which sat framed on her hospital room wall. She pointed to it often and said, “That’s how I can sleep at night.” Her appearance changed, as you said, from night to day, her life had changed forever, her eternity was secure.
Indeed, marked with the cross of Christ forever in baptism, that’s how all of us can sleep at night--and also live our lives during the daytime too. Sue teaches us, that we too ought to weep at the gift God has given and promises to us again and again.
Tonight, Sue is numbered among those in the Church triumphant who are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For the faith that sustained Sue when all other helpers were gone, is the faith we cling to for her, and for ourselves, and for the whole Church. That we are sure, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The night she was baptized into this sure and certain hope, you shared in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Christ’s broken body to redeem our broken bodies, Christ’s shed blood to blot out all we have done and left undone. Tonight, we shall share it again. The Eucharist is a foretaste of that feast that Isaiah promises us tonight: “On this mountain the Lord will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of rich, lee wine, and he will destroy the covering that is cast over all peoples…for the Lord will swallow up death forever.”
As we gather tonight in Eucharist, as the bread and wine become for us the body and blood of our living Lord, Sue is here, together with all the saints of every time and every place, a great company too many to number; all our loved ones who have gone on before us in faith; this is where we meet. Though the altar rail is wide here it becomes wider still as this heavenly banquet spreads out through all eternity.
A feast to celebrate that because of what Christ has done, death has no more power over us, a feast to prepare us for that great and final day when the Lord will wipe away all tears from all faces.
A feast to celebrate Sue’s entry into her Father’s house, a house Jesus tells us today has many mansions, many rooms, for her and for you and for me. Christ has gone to prepare a place, to ready her a home, to make ready a place for you and me too, so that where he is we will be also.
So what then shall we say to this? To a woman and a mother who cared for all, who made her own house a place of welcome, to a woman whose wanderings finally led her back into her Father’s arms, now we entrust her him, to our God who has prepared a place for her and will come again for us as well.
What shall we say? Just this:
“Sue, child of God--Welcome home.”