Philippians 3:13-14 “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Every week when I would get to church Ardeth would be sitting in her car in the parking lot preparing to come into church. I would walk into my office, drop my backpack, and go get a cup of coffee. By the time I got out to the coffee bar area Ardeth would be sitting in her spot: first table in the chair closest to the door. After worship she’d make her way back to that same chair, this time where a cup of coffee and a doughnut would be placed and she would sit with her friends talking, laughing, and catching up. She would greet the young children, she would greet the “old children,” and her smile would light up with each adult who came to hug her.
Last Sunday was the first Sunday she wouldn’t be sitting in her spot. Ardeth died on her way to church, just one block away, going to the place she loved most.
At 90 years old Ardeth had much to teach us and those of us who knew her were privileged to know this woman of faith. There’s much we learn from others and from people like Ardeth. I learned that you are never too old to share your gifts with the heart of a servant. Her sewing and her crocheting—both exceptional skills, were her gifts to others, her way of expressing her love. Ardeth had a knack for thinking about others, for being a giving person, knowing that what she could do brought love to another person. And she always thought of others. One day Ardeth invited Pastor Jon and Marcia to her place, “I have a little something for you” placing in their hands lovingly crocheted items for their grandchildren. Or at the time of my wedding—a package—with colorful dishrags and washcloths, ”To start your kitchen together” she said, and I noticed that she had placed on top two of the washcloths I had admired only a couple of weeks before as she lovingly worked on them during the crochet group time here at church.
They say that a church is a place to worship, a place to serve, and a place to grow with other people. This indeed, is what Ardeth found, in the place she loved most. As Christians we know we can’t control the presence of Christ in our midst, but as someone said, “You can position yourself in different places where you know you’ll encounter the risen Christ: 1) in the Word—Bible study, worship, and the sacraments, 2) in fellowship with God’s people, and 3) among those who are needy.” Ardeth was well stationed and indeed the Holy Spirit made room among her and was there in the abiding places, encountering Christ’s self giving love, and living out of that for others. Yes, she died going to the place she loved most, but ended up in a better place, a place she’ll love even more.