Friday, December 23, 2016

LOVE BEYOND SEASONS

MESSAGE OF CELEBRATION AND HOPE IN MEMORY OF THE LIFE, FAITH, AND MOTHERHOOD OF MRS. TAULESE OPAL PIERCE GREENE
Thursday, December 22, 2016, 11 a.m.
New Millennium Church
Little Rock, AR
©Wendell Griffen, 2016

DAUGHTER PATRICIA
SONS ANDREW AND AARON
DAUGHTER-IN-LOVE LATONIA
GRANDSONS CHASE, MARTYN, ELLIOTT, AND PIERCE
NEPHEWS AND NIECES
COUSINS
FORMER COLLEAGUES, STUDENTS, AND CHURCH MEMBERS
REVEREND CLERGY
SISTERS AND BROTHERS

        Thanks to God, Sister Taulese Opal Pierce Greene touched our lives in countless ways.  Thanks to God, Patricia, Andrew, and Aaron have summoned us to celebrate their sacred love and memories of Sister Greene in this place of praise, prayer, and proclamation.  Thanks to God, we have been loved, instructed, befriended, corrected, encouraged, nurtured, fed, and experienced what it means to be part of the Beloved Community because of Sister Greene. 

        Pat, Andrew, Aaron, thank you for being children who worked together so that Mrs. Greene received excellent care.  Thank you for working as a team.  Thank you, Pat, for diligently managing Mrs. Greene’s care and for faithfully communicating with Andrew and Aaron. 

LaTonia Greene and I are blessed to be Mrs. Greene’s “children-in-love” and parents to her grandsons Chase, Martyn, Elliott, and Pierce (named in the order of their birth).  Mrs. Greene has been our other Mom, so we will always cherish special memories arising from that relationship. 

Chase, Martyn, Elliott, and Pierce are why Mrs. Greene will always be remembered by the loving title “Mee-Maw.”  That title does not appear on the front of the bulletin for this service of remembrance.  Rather, it blazes with invisible and everlasting brilliance in the hearts and memories of her grandsons.  To everyone else, Chase, Martyn Elliott, and Pierce are known by their given names.  But, they are first, last, and will always carry the cherished title of “Pap-Paw’s and Mee-Maw’s boys.”

John Hale and Melvin Cunningham are Mrs. Greene’s nephews, sons of Reverend Greene’s sainted sisters.  But Mrs. Greene was loved so well by John (known by the family as “Pookie”) and Melvin that Pookie and Melvin are like brothers to Patricia, Andrew, and Aaron, and more like uncles to our sons than cousins. 

Mrs. Greene loved God.  She loved her immediate and extended family.  She loved her people, church, neighborhood, and the work of educating children.  Mrs. Greene loved music.  She loved art and beauty, and her favorite holiday each year was Christmas.  She decorated, baked, and rejoiced in Christmas holiday sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and aromas. 

So it is mystically poetic that she would transition from life in God among us to life in God beyond us during Advent season.  It is mystically poetic that we are celebrating God’s love for us as experienced through her long life in a sanctuary adorned with poinsettia, Advent tapestry, and Christmas candles. 

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians which sets out Saint Paul’s brilliant exposition about agape` love—meaning unconditional, unapologetic, unwavering, and unending love—was Mrs. Greene’s favorite Bible passage.  At verse 13 of that passage, the New Revised Standard Version reads:  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.  I title these remarks, Love Beyond Seasons.

Humans quickly become accustomed to marking life events by seasons.  We are in the Advent season of the Christian liturgical calendar, and the winter season of the solar year for the northern hemisphere.  Seasons mark the changes that come with time.  As time passes, the winter season ends and is followed by spring, summer, and autumn. 

As time passes, the season of childhood ends, followed by adolescence, adulthood, and our aged years.  As time passes, the school season ends and we become workers.  As time passes, the work season ends, and we retire.  As time passes, our retirement ends. 

Seasons are the way humans traditionally mark changes in our lifetimes.  We are accustomed to defining living as the events that happen during seasons, and accustomed to defining seasons by beginning and ending dates. 

Someone has written in Ecclesiastes that there is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).  Indeed, that passage from Ecclesiastes is often read during services marking the end of life among us for people we know. 

I did not realize it until this week, but Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul disagreed with that assertion.  Yes, there is a time to be born and a time to die.  Yes, there are seasons of the year, and seasons among the years of our lives. 

However, at 1 Corinthians 13:8, Saint Paul flatly declared, Love never ends.  Although the writer of Ecclesiastes declared that there is a time to love, and a time to hate (Ecclesiastes 3:8), Mrs. Greene held fast to what Saint Paul declared, Love never ends! 

Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul challenge us to realize and live a life that is not marked by seasons, but by the season-less reality of love.  They had an advantage over whoever wrote Ecclesiastes.  They experienced the presence of God and power of divine love in Jesus Christ. 

In Jesus Christ, God shows us that life is not defined by seasons, but by relationships.  What happens in time is qualified by our relationships with people and the world.  Because of Jesus, Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul affirm that love elevates living beyond time, beyond locality, beyond the circumstances of our situations and beyond temporality.  Love is timeless.  Love is trans-seasonal; no, love is extra-seasonal, meaning that love is not and cannot be confined by any season, or by all seasons.

Notice, I did not say love is unseasonal!  The writer of Ecclesiastes declares there is a season for love and a season for hate—for being unloving.  But Jesus, Saint Paul, and Mrs. Greene declare that love is never out of season.  Love is never out of style.  Love is never out of order.  Love is never out of date.  Love is never out of place.  Love is never out of time because love is extra-seasonal, and cannot be shut in, held down, or otherwise limited by time and seasons! 

Mrs. Greene didn’t openly contradict the writer of Ecclesiastes.  That wasn’t her way.  Mee-Maw came at us from the side.  She told us her favorite passage was 1 Corinthians 13, a prophetic word about love that never ends, never gives up, never stops believing, never stops hoping, and never surrenders to hate.  Love never ends is an outright challenge to the claim that there is a time to love and a time to hate.  Both assertions cannot be true. 

And through her frequent references to 1 Corinthians 13, Mee-Maw said to us, to the students to whom she read that passage each morning, and by her living that there is a dimension of life called love that does not die!  Love does not die because love cannot die! 

Love never ends means that life is death-proof.  Because only people who live can love, people who love are death-proof!  People who are loved are death-proof!   

Love never ends leads to faith.  Faith, like love, transcends facts, time, seasons, and situations.  Faith, like love, never ends.

Love never ends leads to hope.  Hope, like love and faith, transcends facts, time, seasons, and situations. 

Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul declared that of the three—faith, hope, and love—the greatest, highest, sweetest, and most wonderful gift is love.  Love is the gift that keeps giving.  Love is the gift that inspires faith and hope.  Love is what makes faith worth trusting and hope worth our sacrifices.

And so Mrs. Greene and Saint Paul, inspired and illuminated by God’s love as revealed in Jesus, call us to realize that love, hope, and faith are endless, timeless, beyond seasons, and never die.  Love, like faith and hope, is death proof.  Love, like faith and hope, cannot age out, does not wear out, will not give out, and cannot be put out.  Why?  Because love, hope, and faith make us one in God! 

So we do not gather today to bid farewell to the woman who loved us, taught us, sewed for us, counseled with us, prayed for us, taught and played music to us, and fed us.  We gather in God’s name to celebrate and remember that God loved us through this woman who loved us in God’s life while she lived among us, and who loves us still in God’s life as she lives beyond us. 

We gather to declare that we are children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, classmates, and church members, students and neighbors, and other beneficiaries of the love of God revealed through Taulese Opal Pierce Greene because of her love, faith, and hope in Jesus Christ.  That love is with us today.  That love has guided us through past years and situations.  And that love will never end, never stop, and never die. 

Rejoice in that love!  Thank God for that love!  Praise Jesus Christ whose life and ministry inspired Mrs. Greene in that love.  Beloved, now abide, faith, hope and love.   Take comfort from that love, now!  Share that love with everyone. 

Because love is from God, whoever lives in love is death-proof.  Because love is from God, and because whoever lives in love is death-proof, love makes us immortal!  Love makes us more than heartbeats and breaths.  Love makes us beings who inhabit a dimension not marked by seasons; a dimension called ALWAYS! 

Because God is love, In God, we are loved, ALWAYS.

Because God is love, we are citizens of ALWAYS, FOREVER, NOW! 

In 1976 the popular musician Stevie Wonder released what has become his signature recording, Songs in the Key of Life.  When we get to the repast in a few minutes you’ll hear a song being played as we encourage one another.  Here are the lyrics to As.[1]

As around the sun the earth knows she's revolving
And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May
Just as hate knows love's the cure
You can rest your mind assure
That I'll be loving you always

As now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow
But in passing will grow older every day
Just as all is born is new
Do know what I say is true
That I'll be loving you always

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky---ALWAYS
Until the ocean covers every mountain high---ALWAYS
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea---ALWAYS
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream

Did you know that true love asks for nothing
Her acceptance is the way we pay
Did you know that life has given love a guarantee
To last through forever and another day

Just as time knew to move on since the beginning
And the seasons know exactly when to change
Just as kindness knows no shame
Know through all your joy and pain
That I'll be loving you always

As today I know I'm living but tomorrow
Could make me the past but that I mustn't fear
For I'll know deep in my mind
The love of me I've left behind
 Cause I'll be loving you always

Until the day is night and night becomes the day---ALWAYS
Until the trees and seas just up and fly away---ALWAYS
Until the day that 8x8x8 is 4---ALWAYS
Until the day that is the day that are no more
Did you know that you're loved by somebody?
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left---ALWAYS
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself
I'll be loving you forever
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through---ALWAYS
Until the day that you are me and I am you

We all know sometimes lifes hates and troubles
Can make you wish you were born in another time and space
But you can bet your life times that and twice its double
That God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed
so make sure when you say you're in it but not of it
You're not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell
Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love
And maybe our children's grandchildren
And their great-great grandchildren will tell

I'll be loving you

Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky--Loving you
Until the ocean covers every mountain high--Loving you
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea--Loving you
Until we dream of life and life becomes a dream--Be loving you
Until the day is night and night becomes the day--Loving you
Until the trees and seas up, up and fly away--Loving you
Until the day that 8x8x8x8 is 4--Loving you
Until the day that is the day that are no more--Loving you
Until the day the earth starts turning right to left--Be loving you
Until the earth just for the sun denies itself--Loving you
Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through--Loving you
Until the day that you are me and I am you--
Now ain't that loving you 

                                                                                
Mrs. Greene’s life and faith have given us a truth we must not forget.  Now faith, hope, and love abide—remain, continue, do not stop, cannot be shut down, persist, persevere, overcome, and are everlasting.  And the greatest part of ALWAYS is love! 

Thank God!  Hallelujah!  Amen.

God of always, thank you for the blessings you have lavished on us through your servant Taulese Opal Pierce Greene.  Thank you for her faith, hope, and love.  Thank you for the differences that faith, hope, and love have made, are making, and will forever make in us.  Thank you for delivering the soul we’ve been blessed to know and love as Mom, Mee-Maw, Aunt Taulese, Cousin Taulese, and Mrs. Greene from the burdens of life in you among us to the blessings of life in you beyond us where she is at peace  with Jesus Christ and the ancestors. 

Grant us strength for the living of these days of transition.  Thank you for blessing us with the fellowship of other relatives, friends, neighbors, and pilgrims of faith so we are not forced to bear this experience alone.  Help us to live for you in the power and peace that comes from faith and hope that you love us ALWAYS. 

We pray especially for Patricia, Andrew, Aaron, LaTonia, Chase, Martyn, Elliott, Pierce, and the other persons who have been most strongly influenced by Mrs. Greene’s love life of service, devotion, and dedication.  Grant us peace today, tomorrow, and always, we pray, through Jesus Christ. 

AMEN

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