Sunday, March 6, 2016

In Honor of Theresa Ann Branch

A tribute to a family friend who recently died

Theresa Ann Branch, 78, died on March 2. She and her husband George served as Children's Ministers at the church of my childhood (the era from which this photo is taken). I traveled to West Virginia to participate in her memorial service on Saturday. Early in the morning before the service, I penned the following reflection to share. I thought of Theresa as a pastor's spouse and of her life in Parkersburg for over 35 years after George passed away. She died far from her childhood home, but had made a home in the place to where she and George felt called of God to serve. This, to me, is profound and fascinating.


This is where the call of God ends,
or begins:
Here in a city far from home,
With a spouse preceding you 
in death by decades,
Among people you never could have
imagined knowing in your
beginning years.

When you said “yes” 
to the invitation of Jesus 
to a lifelong journey,
this is where it ends,
or begins.

“Come, follow me, and I will make you
fishers of men,” Jesus said.
“Deny yourself, take up your cross daily,
and follow me,” Jesus said.
“Whom shall I send, and who will
go for us?” God asked.
And you said,
“Here am I. Send me.”

So you followed.
And you were sent.
You journeyed—
in joy, in sorrow,
in laughing, in weeping,
in serving, in sharing—
over a lifetime in the name of
the call of God.


This is where the call of God ends,
or begins:
Here in a place you have made
a home,
With a spouse who from eternity
has blessed and beckoned,
Among people—friends, loved ones,
saints, characters—you could not
have imagined caring for you
in your beginning years.

When you said ‘yes’ to Jesus,
He promised to be with you
to the very end—and 
this is where it ends,
or begins.

The road has not been easy.
Its winding turns at times
baffled and startled and grieved.
The way has also been joyful--
as if you’ve been borne along
by grace, by love, by hope.

And, having walked the last mile
of the way, you hear the One
who invited you, “Come, follow me,”
now welcome you: “Well done,
good and faithful servant.”


This is where the call of God ends,
or begins:
Here in places we make our home,
With companions who dare to link arms
in love with us—for better or worse,
Among people who are given to us,
and to whom we are given—at the same
time rag-tag and wonderful beyond
our imagination.

We hear Jesus’ invitation anew,
“Come, follow me, and I will make you…”
We say, today, ‘yes,’ afresh.
This is where it ends
and begins.

Legacies of faith surround us.
In life and from eternity
they beckon:
“Jesus is with you,” they say.
“He is faithful,” they exclaim.
“Do not hesitate to follow—
to go with him, with him
all the way.”
“It will be worth it all.”

At this journey’s end,
so let us begin.


John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com

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