“The Better Part of Us” November 4, 2018
“The Better Part of Us”
Ruth 1:1-18/ Hebrews 9:11-18
Mark 12:28-34/ Matthew 5:1-12
(The following is from the book “Let Me Tell You a Story” by Rob Parsons)
Paul was a little boy whose parents owned one of the first telephones. They lived on the plains in America, and the wooden box with a handle was installed in their farmhouse kitchen. He thought it was a wonderful machine. His mother would wind it up and say, “Information please,” and a lady would reply, “This is information.” It was incredible. Information Please would get them a phone number, tell them the time and sometimes even inform them about the weather.
One day when Paul was small and his parents were out, he banged his thumb with a hammer. There was no point in crying because there was nobody in. And then he remembered the telephone. Let Paul continue the story: “I got a stool, stood on it, and reached up to the handset: ‘Information Please.’ The lady replied in her standard way, ‘This is information. How can I help you?’
‘I’ve banged my thumb,’ I sobbed. ‘Is your mummy in?’ Information Please asked. ‘No.’ ‘Is your daddy in?’ ‘No’ ‘Is it bleeding?’ ‘No.’ Information Please said, ‘Can you get to the ice box?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Hold some ice against it.’
It worked! After that I rang Information Please for everything. Information Please helped me with my geography homework – she told me where Philadelphia is. Information Please taught me how to spell disappear. And when my pet canary died and I cried down the phone and asked, ‘Why would God make something that can sing so beautifully and let it die?’ Information Please said, ‘Paul, you must always remember there are other worlds to sing in.’
And then my parents moved to New York and I was out of her area, and anyway, I didn’t believe that Information Please could live in the new plastic phone. I never rang her again…until I was 24 years old. I was making a trip one day and my plane put down in the airport near where we used to live. I had about half an hour to wait and was sitting in the airport lounge when I saw a telephone. I thought, ‘I wonder…’ I dialed and said, ‘Information Please’ and a familiar voice said, ‘This is Information.’
‘Could you teach me to spell disappear?’ I said. There was a long pause and then she replied, ‘I expect that thumb is better by now!’ I said, ‘Do you have any idea what you meant to me?’ ‘She said, ‘Have you any idea what you meant to me?’ We couldn’t have children and I used to look forward to your calls. My name’s Sally. I’m not very well and I only work a few hours a week, but if you’re ever in the area, promise to ring me, won’t you?’
After that, I rang Sally whenever I was in the area and we would talk. One day, I dialed the number and a different voice answered, ‘This is Information.’
I said, ‘Could I speak to Sally, please?’ ‘Are you a friend?’ the woman said. ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘an old friend.’
There was a pause and the operator said, ‘I’m so sorry to have to tell you, sir, but Sally died five weeks ago. She was elderly and hadn’t been well for a long time.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry to have troubled you.’ ‘No, wait,’ the operator said, ‘Is your name Paul?’ ‘Why, yes.’ ‘Well, sir, Sally said that if you happened to ring we must be sure to give you this message: ‘Paul, you must always remember there are other worlds to sing in.’
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The story “Information Please” comes from a book by Rob Parsons called “Let Me Tell You a Story.” I wanted to share it with you today for many reasons. It is one of those stories that is both universal and personal at the same time. But most of all, I wanted to share it because it speaks a wonderful truth to those of us who believe in a resurrected Christ. We have chosen this day to consider this truth as we stop to remember the Saints who have made us who we are, who have formed out faith, and who have and built the church. They are, in every sense of the word, the better part of who we are today.
The wonderful truth that I found in the story of “Information Please” is the same truth that I look to find in the celebration of All the Saints. It is not a morbid fascination with death, as some might suppose. We all lose people we love, and for that we must grieve. But we are an Easter people, a Resurrection people. And as a resurrection people we live in the assurance that a life in Christ is a life everlasting.
Let me end with one thought. Every year in the Spring, we relive the story of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion. It never gets easier, it’s always hard. Yet on Easter morning the bells ring, the choirs sing, and we gather together with great joy to celebrate a risen Lord. We don’t mourn his death. Instead we hold tight to every word, every act, and every example of love and compassion because we don’t want to miss a thing. And this becomes the better part of us: not sadness, not pain, not hopelessness, but the good that continues to live in us. When Jesus spoke with Martha, the sister of Lazarus, he speaks to us loud and clear. (Jn 11:25) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” And Martha replied, “Yes, Lord.”
So let us be glad for the saints in our lives. Let us hold fast to the blessings they brought and thank the Lord that they are never gone for good; only that there are other worlds to sing in.
Amen & Shalom