Remembering Ann Carlson…
1st Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6 & Luke 1:68-79 (Song of Zechariah)
“The Lord is our righteousness” proclaims the prophet Jeremiah. The prophet encourages the people of Israel, returning from exile to the land of their ancestors and needing to know that their return is blessed and their restoration as God’s people assured.
But, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, says the Lord.”
There are many kinds of leadership aren’t there? Jeremiah talks about the Divine leadership of God, blessing and restoring the Israelites to their land and their purpose, and the fulfillment of the covenant God made with them. But the prophet also curses those leaders who as bad shepherds have led the people in wrong directions and have failed to keep the flock together.
As we look around our world today we can see examples of both types of leadership in many countries. In our own country Canada we can identify leaders who would tear our country apart, and others who work diligently to bring unity to our national identity.
Jeremiah also prophesises the birth of a saviour, one who will be from the righteous branch of David, and who will reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Righteousness, “The Lord is our righteousness” Jeremiah said. We often emphasize the Lord as the epitome or even embodiment of our righteousness, don’t we? What if we emphasize the second part of that phrase instead? What if we are to understand that our Lord, our leadership should spring from our sense of righteousness?
This is the Reign of Christ Sunday, and I like to think that Jesus the Christ came to be an example for us, and a teacher, of the Way of life which is led and shaped by righteousness. According to my dictionary, righteous means “just, upright, morally good”. To be “just” is to act according to what is right and what is fair.
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, did indeed embody that kind of leadership that inspires us to reach beyond our little self-interest to embrace ideals of justice, righteousness, and self-sacrifice. By his example he leads us into new life, new consciousness – he leads us out of the darkness of selfishness, cruelty and blindness to the needs of others. He teaches the Way and is the Light of the new world, opening our eyes to God’s Kindom here on earth.
Hymn: 23rd Psalm “The Lord’s My Shepherd”
2nd Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-10
Ann Carlson was a strong leader. She was a woman of great faith – both in God and in her own God-given abilities. She was a teacher, an educator, a professional woman when that was not such an easy thing to be. She travelled extensively, was always willing to learn something new, never married and had no children.
Our Ann did not let anyone else define her. And yet, she had a large extended family, to which she was devoted – nursing the sick, nurturing the troubled youth, and providing shelter for the struggling members of her family.
Ann Carlson served this church, mostly as the Chair of the Board, for nearly forty years. She raised money for this church, she baked for the UCW bake sales and she put on an apron and worked all such events. She found preachers and ministers to serve here on Texada, and persuaded others to serve on the Board.
When I expressed an interest in serving as a lay minister, she didn’t laugh at my complete ignorance of how that process worked, but rather she looked me up and down with those sharply penetrating eyes and said, “Well – let’s see what you can do.”
She gave me a chance – and more importantly, she encouraged and supported me to explore my calling. And quite frankly, she terrified me! She was abrupt, self-confident, and had a firm grip on the leadership of this congregation.
Our parables this morning, stories Jesus told his followers about the qualities of a good leader, those stories were ones I am sure Ann Carlson took to heart. She cared about the members of this little flock, this faith family, and she was acutely aware and practised faithful stewardship of the financial realities and resources of this church.
She was a good and faithful servant, and we are told died peacefully and without fear. Rest in peace, our beloved Ann, in the arms of the God who loves you.
Hymn #436 VU “Abide with Me”