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Barbara Halverson

Nov 4, 2020

Psalm 27

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me

to devour my flesh—

my adversaries and foes—

they shall stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,

my heart shall not fear;

though war rise up against me,

yet I will be confident.

4 One thing I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

to live in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to behold the beauty of the Lord,

and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of trouble;

he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

he will set me high on a rock.

Gospel – Luke 10: 25-28

A lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

Blessed be the life and memory of Barbara Suzanne Halverson. Amen.

“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” This is quote from one of the earliest scholars of the church, a man named Irenaeus who lived in Europe during the 2nd century. “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

These words of Irenaeus came to mind as I reflected on Barb’s life. Barb lived about as fully as one can live. She was multi-faceted; her passions flowing in many directions. Whether it was her computer programming skills or her flower arranging. Whether it was her deep love for Jim or her enthusiasm for the Beatles. Whether it was her determination to triumph at a game of bridge or her desire to find the right recipe for a funeral luncheon at the church. Barb lived passionately. Barb lived fully.

In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus repeats the golden rule, his definition of what it means to be fully alive: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Love God, yourself and others with your whole being, Jesus says. With all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength. Different churches and different traditions sometimes tend to focus more on one of these than others. Some lean more towards heart, towards passion and feeling. Some lean more towards mind, towards an intellectual understanding of God. People tend to follow suit.

Barb seemed to buck that trend. She defied easy categorization.

One of my first conversations with Barb was a number of years ago at a Wednesday evening community dinner at church. My first impression of her was that she was sweet and friendly. Her easy smile welcomed me in, the new kid in town at TLC. We chatted a bit about her life, and how she and Jim used to cater meals at TLC. Then she told me about her career in computer programming and how she made her way and made her mark in that male dominated world.

To illustrate, she shared a story, a story that her family repeated to me last week, that shines just a little more light on the fiery, passionate determination that lived in this woman.

One day she came into a meeting, one I assume was fairly high level, and quickly realized that she was the only woman in the room. One of the men in the room, at some point, fully knowing that she was not there as an assistant or a waitress, suggested that maybe she would go and get coffee for the rest of them. Barb, in her friendly manner agreed, but inside of her a fire burned. Now, Barb can make a darn good pot of coffee, after all, she and Jim wouldn’t have survived long in the Lutheran church catering business if she couldn’t make coffee. But that day she took the huge silver urn for coffee, put in it the tiniest scoop of coffee and filled it right up with water. No one ever her to make the coffee at the office again.

Yes, there was more to Barb, much more, than met the eye. Just as she surprised those men in suits with her fire and ability to not only compete, but to excel in their world, she also excelled in (what I assume was) the woman dominated world of flower arranging. She taught flower arranging, she wrote about flower arranging, she judged flower arranging, and she won countless blue ribbons at the fair with her own arrangements.

Apparently Barb got to the place in her flower arranging where blue ribbons at the state fair were just a little hum-drum, saying to Molly at one point, yes, another blue ribbon, but it wasn’t “platinum!” Didn’t anyone else know that platinum ribbons even exist as a category?!?!

Our Psalm this morning, Psalm 27, contained these words:

One thing I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

to live in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to behold the beauty of the Lord,

and to inquire in God’s temple.

Barb sought after the beauty of the Lord all the days of her life. She saw the beauty in a perfectly organized mathematical formula, or a perfectly constructed string of code. A beauty that few people could ever understand, recognize or even appreciate.

She also saw the beauty of a perfectly constructed flower arrangement, a beauty that few of us could understand but that almost all of us can recognize and appreciate.

This is what God’s beauty is like. It is multi-faceted. Expressed in a billion different ways. It is the simple yet perfect design of a leaf or a flower. Every one perfect. Every one unique.

God’s beauty is in the infinitely complex interweaving of all of life; the scientific formulas that undergird all Creation, that lay the foundation for all that is, from the expanse of the universe, to the tiniest, photons and electrons. Barb recognized the broad expanse of this beauty and she sought it, in a variety of forms all the days of her life.

She loved God by doing her part to shine her light on the glory of God’s creation. And she did it with all her heart.

And now we entrust Barb to the care of her eternal Creator, the font of all beauty, the foundation of all formulas, the order at the heart of the Universe. Just as every flower leans toward the light, now Barb is leaning into her light, the eternal light, that is not bound by death, but is waiting to welcome each of us home. This light is God, her salvation, our salvation.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that though the flower fades, and the grass withers, the word of our God stands for ever. And at the heart of that word is a promise. A promise that nothing in this world or the next can ever separate us from God’s love. It is for this reason, it is because of this promise of eternal love that we can now let Barb go knowing that wherever she is, it is good, and it is beautiful. Amen.

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