Final homily by Sherman Hesselgrave, Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020
Readings: Deuteronomy 34:1-4 Psalm 8 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20
At the other end of my ministry, when I was a curate at a parish in Portland, Oregon, I preached a sermon entitled, “Famous Last Words.” I don’t remember what the scriptural text was that day, but it might well have been Jesus telling his flock that he was leaving, but not to worry, because the Holy Spirit would be sent to accompany them on their journey ahead and lead them into all truth. What I do remember is a parishioner telling me afterwards that she would always remember her 18-year-old son’s last words to her as he headed out for a Friday evening with his friends: “See you later, Mom!” That night, he was killed in a motorcycle accident.
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From the summer of 2008, when I arrived at Holy Trinity, until August of 2017, when she died, Bonnie Briggs and I met nearly every month in Trinity Square Cafe to have lunch and to create a poem for the next Homeless Memorial. The Memorial had been meeting outside the south doors of Holy Trinity on the second Tuesday of the month at noon since around the turn of the century. Bonnie and my predecessor, Sara Boyles, had done so before I arrived, and even published a little collection of their poems.
I have been working on a collection of the poems Bonnie and I wrote, so they can continue to be available to anyone interested. We read a few of them are Bonnie’s memorial service. Here is a sample…
Mother’s Day on the Street
Breakfast in bed is a Mother’s Day treat
Unless you happen to live on the street.
Forget about flowers and chocolates, too,
For Mother’s Day on the street, there’s no whoop-de-do.
And what about the kids, whose Mom’s Day it will be,
Who live on the street, in a car, behind a tree?
What kind of future is waiting for them
Even if they manage to carpe diem?
On this day we cherish those dear to our hearts
But on the street, they’re all so far apart.
The street is a pro at rending families asunder
So those who keep it together are a statistical wonder.
While the weather is warmer and the flowers are in bloom,Bonnie Briggs and Sherman Hesselgrave
Mother’s Day in a home beats any perfume.
Toronto Homeless Memorial, 8 May 2012
God’s people have a rich repertoire of tales about surviving floods, plagues, political upheaval, and every form of human cruelty. Some of the stories that come to mind: Joseph (of “technicolour dreamcoat” fame), who was thrown into a deep pit by his brothers to die, later becomes the Minister of Agriculture in Egypt and the one who saves those very brothers and the whole family from starving to death. The prophets Elisha and Elijah performed life-saving miracles for widows. Jesus brings his friend Lazarus back from the dead. Paul is rescued after a shipwreck in the Mediterranean.
Many of us have been wondering how some of the positive things we have been experiencing in the midst of this pandemic can be incorporated into life after Covid-19. Those of us in leadership at Holy Trinity have been thinking about this as well. What kinds of technology might become part of a new routine? What implications are there for how we use our space in the future? What do we do to stay connected to people who have found us via Zoom during this time? These are not easy questions to answer, but day by day more and more people are acknowledging that the new normal will look different than what “normal” used to look like for us.
My sojourn among you will conclude in a few weeks, but those continuing on the Vestry Executive Committee will be mindful of these questions as the pandemic moves on. Keep track of ideas that occur to you that deserve further discussion and consideration down the road.
On Holy Tuesday, April 7th, I observed that my last Sunday at Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday, was exactly two months away. And then I realized that my last service will probably be streamed online, and that I would likely be retiring without being able to hug anyone goodbye or have lunch or dinner with anyone to say thank you and adieu. We all grieve in our own way, and the spectrum of losses in a time of pandemic is wide.
It is difficult to see outside the picture frame at the moment. I am old enough to remember when AIDS and HIV infection were called GRID (Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease), and since the early 1980s we have learned a lot about HIV. In time, drug therapies were developed. I remember Dr. Anthony Fauci’s name from those days, as he was on the front lines back then as well. Nowadays, living with HIV is a lot like living with diabetes.
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