Back in 1980 out in rural Nebraska I conducted my first Thanksgiving Day worship service. It was not a good week. Lucille had died the previous afternoon. I was at the hospital with her husband, her sisters, and her children when, at age forty-eight, she lost a three-year battle with cancer. For some little while before she died she had whispered the sursum corda: “Lift up your hearts.”
Lucille was one of those folks in that one-hundred-year-old congregation who had kept things going over the years. She was a respected figure. I had gotten to know her well in the four short months I had been there. Her death washed over the church and the community like an acid rain.
It was one of those weeks pastors dread. There was a wedding rehearsal that evening, a sermon to write for Thanksgiving Day, one for the wedding that Saturday night, a sermon for Sunday, and now tucked in between all that, Lucille’s funeral, Saturday afternoon. I decided to write them in order: Thanksgiving first, then wedding, then funeral and, finally, Sunday.