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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel S.J. Scheid SCP

What is Father Dan Thinking? 3-4-24

Fr. Daniel S.J. Scheid, SCP

Margaret Taylor Requiem – March 2, 2024

All Saints’ Episcopal Church, San Francisco

“A Thoughtful Christian”

 

The New York Times opinion writer David French wrote a column earlier this week that contrasted Christian Nationalists with thoughtful Christians.

 

French, a political conservative and Christian evangelical, has no patience with Christian nationalism and is most concerned about it and the future of our country.

 

Christian nationalists, who aren’t necessarily devout church-goers, could be called Christian supremacists – they believe that in this Christian-majority country, Christian beliefs and practices should dictate public policy.

 

The judge in the recent Alabama in vitro fertilization case could be called a Christian nationalist; an argument could be made that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is one, as well.

 

French, who is a practicing Christian, is equally worried that thoughtful Christians will get lumped in with the nationalist lot. French reminded his readers that for Christians, their faith ought to inform their world-view and politics, every bit as much as a scientist’s or historian’s or artist’s practice ought to inform theirs. The U.S. Civil Rights Movement, French wrote, while not expressly a Christian movement, was led by people whose faith was central to their lives – the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being the most notable example.

 

Margaret Taylor often expressed worry and dismay at the direction and destination our country is heading toward. It will surprise no one here that Margaret Taylor was about as far from a Christian Nationalist as a Christian could be.

 

And it should surprise no one here that Margaret Taylor most definitely was a thoughtful Christian.

 

Any one in the litany of Margaret’s accomplishments listed in her obituary in The San Francisco Chronicle, of course, could have been achieved by a person with no faith tradition or practice at all. Atheists are quick to point out that, pound-for-pound, they do as much good in the world, maybe more, than believers in God. I have no reason to doubt their sincerity or the veracity of their claim. God works mysteriously through all sorts of people.

 

But Christians, in particular thoughtful Christians like Margaret, do their good with a particular point-of-view.

 

Margaret was steeped in the traditions of the Episcopal Church and our emphasis on the Incarnation, the Baptismal Covenant, and the Eucharist.

 

It is the Incarnation – God becoming one of the created order, one of us, in the full humanity of God the Son – that enables thoughtful Christians like Margaret to find the presence of God in the people and in the nature that Margaret so loved.

 

It is the Baptismal Covenant and its call to respect human dignity and to find the presence of Christ in others, even in those in whom we can scarce imagine it, that enables thoughtful Christians like Margaret to fight for people on the margins and, yes, to hold her nose, metaphorically speaking, while trying to see the good in the despicable, including a former White House incumbent.

 

And it is the Eucharist, the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the elements of bread and wine taken, blessed, broken, and given from this altar, that enables thoughtful Christians like Margaret to feel and find, in our own broken-ness, God’s endearing and undying love for us. 

Unlike most of you, I have known Margaret Taylor only a short while – just over three years, to be precise. We met as images on each other’s computer screens when I was a candidate to become the incumbent here at All Saints’. Margaret was the first member of All Saints’ that Kate and I met in the flesh, when she greeted us outside the rectory after our three-and-a-half-day U-Haul drive from Flint, Michigan, to the Haight-Ashbury.

 

Margaret was All Saints’ Senior Warden my first two years here – for those of you unfamiliar with our insider lingo, that means that, among other duties, she was the chief transition officer to help me get acclimated to this magical parish neighborhood and to this historic and dynamic one-hundred-twenty-year-old congregation.

 

Because of her belief in the Incarnation, Margaret encouraged Kate and me to explore and enjoy the beauty of this city and its people.

 

Because of her grasp of the Baptismal Covenant, Margaret welcomed my instinctive outreach to the people on the margins in the Haight-Ashbury.

 

And because of her love for the Eucharist, Margaret served as my right hand in all things sacristy – the material stuff of our worship; and, more importantly, she patiently helped me align my expectations with the capacity and practices of the people who pray and worship and study and serve here.

In his book The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, the poet and undertaker Thomas Lynch said that a funeral serves two purposes. It gets the dead where they need to go, and the living where they need to be.

 

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. We’ve no control over that. Margaret, we trust, is already there; and yet we have her earthly remains to tend to. Soon enough these will end up where they need to go: alongside her Nancy in the niche in our Columbarium Chapel.

 

That leaves us, you and me. Where do we need to be? I believe that thoughtful Christians, and those respectful of our beliefs and practices, gather in sacred spaces such as this at funeral-time because where we need to be is of the mindset that this mortal life isn’t all there is, thanks be to God; and that God has promised us something more, something greater.

 

“I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though she die. And everyone who has life and has committed herself to me in faith, shall not die forever” (BCP 491).

 

Margaret lives on, and we will, too. This is cause for celebration – lusty “alleluias” we say and sing, amid Lent’s austerity.

 

And, at the same time, we need the stark reminder that we will never see again in this life the woman we knew and loved. Closure, it’s sometimes called.

 

This is sobering, and it ought to be. Grief runs in direct proportion to love – the greater the love, the greater the grief. No doubt everyone here today hurts. You’re supposed to. At the grave of his beloved friend Lazarus, Jesus wept, too.

 

There’s a third place the living need to be, in addition to celebration and closure.

 

Funerals demand that we examine our own lives. Are we ready to die? And, as importantly, are we ready to live?

 

While she was still alive, Margaret Taylor answered yes to both.

 

Her lifetime of thoughtful Christianity was what got her out of bed every morning, and in those later days when the bed was the best she could do, it’s what kept her mind moving. Margaret was ready to live – right up to the end.

 

And this meant that Margaret was ready to die. After cancer took hold and its cure was impossible, she told me so. I believe she was well-prepared, and the Sacraments of the Church, administered and received on her penultimate day in this life, eased her way to the next. May we, in all the days we have left, be as graced as she.

 

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1 Comment


Mary Jones
Mary Jones
Mar 29

The 3/4/24 article touched me, especially the paragraph about grief running in direct proportion to love, the greater the grief, the greater the love. My daughter recently lost a beloved friend unexpectedly. She is almost inconsolable. Father Dan helped her try to understand and begin to work through her grief. Thank you for your dedication and love for the people in your neighborhood. MJ

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