I told someone last Friday after the death of one of our old time members, Phyliss Hass, that we had lost one of the Grand Dames of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. They looked at me with those uncomprehending looks so I probably need to explain. First of all Grand Dame is pronounced like “bond”, Grond Dom. It is one of those French pretensions that came down from the last century and one of those words that held a great reservoir of meaning and ideas. First it was the idea of a matronly women who had reached the epitome of society or art. Doyenne is another term and one more would be prima donna which means leading lady, but has had a bunch of meaning attached to it that is negative because of the spoiled brats that became leading ladies down through the years. There, now that I have the “words mean things” out of the way, here is what I meant.
Phyliss was involved in every aspect of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League for many years and the older members of different units will tell you that she was a mentor to them and taught them much about the culture of the LWML. She was very much into by-laws which used to drive me crazy because they can be so involved that to read them makes your head ache. It least it did mine. Phyliss loved that stuff and brought a book keepers attitude to them. For a long time Phyliss was the keeper of the flame of by-laws.
It can be said about the Sunday School as well and I have had many people tell me about their memories of Phyliss being their teacher and how good she was at conveying the simple truths about Jesus. She was also one of those people that kept the choir going and kept it fun at the same time. She was of that age when everything that happened at the church was something that she would participate in. There was none of this attitude that she would come to church “if there was nothing better going on”, because for her, the church was the most important thing, not because of a building, but because it conveyed Christ.
She was punctilious and one of the last times I saw her, maybe a month before she died she was still ironing her jeans. The book keeper attitude was a reminder that God is a God of order and not confusion and yet she was conscious of the confusion and surprisingly to me, not very judgmental. She could live with paradox, which as far as I am concerned is what it means to be a Lutheran. We don’t try and explain paradox in life, we accept it. We don’t try and get God off the hook when bad things happen but accept the paradox that sometimes evil things come our way even when a loving God is in charge. She was forgiving of foibles in others, at least that is what I observed and, had a sharp eye for the absurdities of life and could laugh rather than rail at them.
Phillis was about four days short of her 97th birthday making her one of the older members of the congregation. She knew the history of our churches and the other churches in our circuit. It occurred to me that she knew all about us and loved us anyway. That is the same thing I tell people about Jesus. She had the mind of Paul who was not ashamed of the Gospel and believed that one of the reasons that we have the problems we do is so that we can grow, but also witness to the fact that we are not ashamed of Christ. We are convinced that He will guard and keep what He has given us by HIs suffering and death and it will be kept by Him until the day He calls us home. It is called faith. What was kept in trust for Phyliss she kept track of with that book keeping attitude and last Friday she was paid in full. What was entrusted in Christ was paid in full because it had been redeemed years ago on a cross. Phyliss “got it”, and her wish and prayer was that others might “get it ” too.