In case you weren’t in church today or hadn’t heard otherwise, we lost our dear sister Ruth Tompkins yesterday morning. I admit that I am having a hard time with it all, as this is the first death in my life since my dad’s own passing over the summer. What makes this one a bit harder too is that Ruth was in the same hospital as my dad, and I often would visit both of them on the same day. I guess in a way Ruth’s being in the hospital was a reminder of my dad, and now both of them are gone.
As I shared today in the sermon, I will always remember Ruth’s warmth. Her genuine welcome for people was one of the first things that attracted me to the congregation of Grace. In fact, she was the first person I met from Grace way back in the summer of 2008, when I came just to provide pulpit supply. I remember thinking that this lady was pretty special, in that she was so happy to see me, a stranger, walk up to the doors of the church. A few months later I was interviewing for the position of pastor at Grace and the rest is history.
So I owe a lot to Ruth for giving me that first glimpse of this congregation, and for all the love and acceptance she has given me over the years. She will always be a part of what I do as a pastor, the ministry we share together as a congregation, and the love we have for one another as a community. She definitely was a big part of our church, and she will be greatly missed.
Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and may the light perpetual shine upon her.
Ruth just missed the 500th anniversary of the Reformation by a week. She would have been so happy to celebrate it, too, as she truly was Lutheran through and through. Jesus’ words here in this gospel lesson remind me of what Ruth was about: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Ruth truly loved God’s Word. Whenever I would visit I would read scripture to her, and no matter how poorly I would read the text, she would always be smiling and nodding in complete agreement of everything that was said. She would then give a short commentary on what she thought of the text, and was always so full of hope and peace.
Ruth knew the truth. Ruth knew that she was, is, and will always be a beloved child of God. And this truth set her free. Free to be so loving. Free to be filled with warmth and welcome. Free to be Ruth.
She was never really one to worry about what others thought of her (except when it came to her nails), and it wasn’t often when she would back down from her thoughts and opinions. For this, she is an inspiration to me, knowing that God’s truth of gracious love and redemption is one that fills us with the joy and peace and hope that really does set us free. Free to be who we are called to be as children of God.
This isn’t going to be an easy week with all this stuff going on, but as we are free to mourn the passing of our sister Ruth, we are also free to live in the promises of God, knowing that there is hope in the life to come. Peace be with all of us through this time.
Enjoy your week, everyone, as we look forward to the celebration of 500 years!