Aunt Julie

Gospel Text: John 14:1-7

Today we gather together as people who are experiencing a huge range of emotions.

Many are feeling deep grief and sadness that Julie and her smile and laughter are no longer with us. Others are filled with many questions about life and faith and God. And still others are overwhelmed and completely exhausted. There is also the slight feeling of comfort among us today that comes as families and friends gather together to grieve and mourn and share stories about such a special lady.

As we come together today for Julie’s funeral, we are reminded that part of the freedom of faith – is the freedom we have to express all of our emotions to God. And God promises to be present with us through the full range of what we are going through. There is no feeling and no question too big for God’s embrace.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus talks to his disciples about God’s gracious hospitality. At the time, the disciples were feeling very scared – and they had no idea what was ahead. In the middle of his journey and ministry, Jesus takes some time to pause and describe to his followers that they don’t need to be troubled or worried or stressed – because God has a special place prepared for them.

We can all relate to that idea of longing for stability in the midst of so many unknowns. We all long to have a place prepared for us.

Julie had an amazing ability to prepare a place for people. She opened her doors and her table to many people with her kind, gracious presence. Julie loved her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her family and her friends very, very much. And it meant so much to her to create a space that made people feel welcome.

I remember the afternoon I met Julie. My mom had just started dating Julie’s brother, Jeff, and my brother and I had been invited along for Thanksgiving. I clearly remember the warmth of Julie’s hug that afternoon. I remember that there were enough seats at the table prepared for all of us. I knew I was welcome that day, and it meant the world to me. I imagine that many of us gathered here today have stories of Julie’s kindness and hospitality. Her warmth put us at ease. Her smile and her laughter helped us feel accepted and loved.

In today’s Bible readings, we are reminded of the loving way God relates to us. In the lesson Marc read from 2 Corinthians, we hear about our Creator – who comforts us in the midst of difficult times. In the Psalm, we hear about how God provides peace and rest. In the Gospel lesson, God’s hospitality is expressed.

From all these descriptions of our Creator, it is clear that God’s loving arms are always open wide. They are open wide enough for everyone to gather under the healing shelter those arms provide. In the midst of so many questions and overwhelming feelings, it’s okay to put all those worries and doubts aside, and be carried for awhile by God. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are all given a new relationship with God – a relationship filled with freedom and peace, forgiveness and grace. And when it feels like the whole world if falling apart – we are offered a chance to remember that God walks with us as we heal, as we remember, and as we put the pieces of our lives back together.

God loved and prepared a place for Julie in her life, and God cares for and prepares a place for Julie in her death. And the same is true for each and every person in this space today. God loves and values all of creation, and God loves and values you. And though we often don’t understand the way the world works, God promises to never leave us or turn away from us.

We mourn Julie’s death today, and we also celebrate the many ways she impacted our lives – through her hospitality, her kindness, her contagious enthusiasm for life. Praise be to God for the many ways this special woman brightened the world with her loving spirit.


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