Rev. Stephen Wold's Remarks"Surprised By Hope": Remarks from the memorial service for Pamela Jolicoeur by the Rev. Stephen Wold, senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead:
Let us pray: Gracious God, Thank you for your real and life-giving presence in all of creation and here in this very room. Thank you for receiving Pam Jolicoeur into your loving, gentle, strong and graceful arms. Be with Pam’s husband, Michael, her daughter, Jessica, her mother, her sisters, and all who grieve Pam’s death. Be with us now as we experience again your barrier-breaking, future opening presence. Amen.
Grace and peace to you from the crucified, risen and enthroned, exalted Christ who is seated at the right hand of God, and present in this Sanctuary at this very moment. Amen.
The words of Psalm 130 have been going through my mind ever since last Wednesday morning when Pam was taken by ambulance to the emergency room and later that day died with Mike at her side. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my prayers ... My soul waits for the Lord more than those who keep watch for the morning, more than those who keep watch for the morning. O people of God, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love. O Lord, my soul waits for you and in your word is my hope.” In your word is my hope!
We are a people who today tragically identify with the "depths" of which the Psalmist spoke—“Out of the depths, we cry to you O Lord.” The word translated "depth" is the Hebrew word "tehom." It is the same word used in the first chapters of Genesis—“and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The depths are places of primeval chaos, like cold, dark water so turbulent and wild and bewildering that it refuses order and seems untouched by the hand of God. Michael and Jessica and all who grieve Pam’s death have experienced these depths these past days. And today, we come together waiting for the Lord and proclaiming that in God’s word is our hope.
Dear friends in Christ, there is hope and at the center of that hope is the good news that a new era has broken in upon us in the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel is the joyful message that in Christ a new creation has already and actually broken in upon us, and the promise that it will be carried to completion. We are speaking of a new creation. Every force, every authority in the whole cosmos, will be subject to the Messiah, and finally death itself will give up its power. We are tempted to think that the permanent state of the cosmos will be chaos, entropy, dissolution, financial tsunamis and an iron-fisted grip of death upon all that lives. Proclaiming the Gospel in this situation of brokenness is not an easy task. But today, we proclaim that God has been at work and is now at work and one day will bring forth a new heaven and a new earth, a transformed heaven and a transformed earth. From Revelation chapter 21, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his people and God will be with them; God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
There is hope. In this surprising and stunning vision there is hope. Heaven and earth are overlapping realities and the resurrection of Jesus has connected these dimensions more closely than we often realize. In the words of N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, “We are not just waiting to fly off to heaven one day, but heaven is breaking into our present circumstances with each passing moment. In the resurrection of Jesus, we have the dawn of a new era which is marked by heaven and earth being interlocking spheres. In the Bible heaven and earth are made for each other ... you really understand earth only when you are equally familiar with heaven. Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven”—to pray and work so that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Dear friends in Christ, Dr. Pam Jolicoeur embodied that vision. Her life was shaped by this great hope, and in her presence we experienced a life of personal holiness deeply wedded to the desire for a global holiness. Pam embodied the statement that ”the purpose of Concordia College is to influence the affairs of the world.” Pam loved to quote Martha Nussbaum on the theme of liberal arts education being a great space for cultivating "compassionate imagination” for the healing of the world and as a key element in “sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women dedicated to the Christian life.” Pam understood that a mission–shaped college must have its mission shaped by its hope, and that the genuine Christian hope is for God’s renewal of all things, for the overcoming of corruption, decay and death, for the filling of the whole cosmos with love and grace, power and glory. In the words of former Yale Chaplain John Vannorsdall, “Our purpose is to give glory to God by serving our neighbors in wise love, creating peace and justice as is possible and thereby to embody the coming future in our present lives.”
As Pam went about her work, she had a keen sense of the unique culture that is present in the Upper Midwest and at Concordia College. In her inaugural address in April of 2005, she told us that to accomplish our goals we would need to “overcome a major flaw in the Norwegian gene pool—(and at that moment Memorial Auditorium got very quiet)—what her colleague, Bill Frame, called our “militant modesty.” She challenged us to tell our story more boldly and to let go of some of our world-neglecting quietism that may be hindering the mission. In that first year of her work, she often pondered what it meant when people would say "uffda" and when they would end their sentences with the word "then." She was mystified the first time someone said to her at the close of a meeting. “Looks like we are about done, then.” Before they moved to Moorhead, Mike remembers the evening that he and Pam watched the movie "Fargo" with another couple and attempted to sort out what might actually be true in the characterizations. Even with a doctorate in sociology, some of these things were simply beyond explanation.
Pam was the 10th president of Concordia College and she often mused about how her Catholic school education and how the disciplines of being a member of a vowed community for six years had grounded her in the life of the Church. She adopted her Lutheran identity while a faculty member at California Lutheran University and often said that ”a journey through her life is a thicket of paradox.” And that her life’s experiences opened the way for her to really appreciate Lutheranism’s embrace of paradox and ambiguity. She spoke of Lutheranism being in the "messy middle" of Christendom and how that grace-filled space had given her the opportunity to grow into who she was. These last six years were great years for Pam and great years for Concordia. She felt like she was in the right place at the right time. She often quoted a line from "Evensong," a best-selling novel by Gail Godwin that says, “Something’s your vocation if it keeps making more of you.” Being the President of Concordia was making more of her and more of us.
Dear friends in Christ, Pam and Mike are members of Trinity Lutheran Church and almost every Sunday they would worship together at our 8 a.m. service. Like clockwork, they were present—praying, hearing God’s Word, singing God’s praises, and gathering with the people of God. After worship, Mike would cook breakfast and begin their day together. They were an inspiration in so many ways to the members of Trinity!
About 10 years ago, Mike flew to Vietnam and took a bicycle trip and, while there, he visited areas where he had been involved in fire fights as a Marine and remembered many friends—fellow Marines who had not come home alive. It was during that reflective journey that he decided to ask Pam to marry him. They had been wonderful friends for years, but now it was time for marriage. It was true that they had friends who playfully wondered if a Marine and a nun were actually a good match. They were, and Mike’s support of Pam during her presidency was a key part of why this worked so well.
Dear friends in Christ, as the people of God, we gather today in sadness for what has happened, but centered in the hope of the day full of grace that now we see appearing on earth’s horizon ... and in the words of Dag Hammarskjold, a former Secretary-General of the United Nations, “For all that has been—Thank you!, and for all that will be—Yes!”
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Video Archive (full service)
Bishop Mark Hanson
video | written
Dr. Paul Dovre
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Rev. Stephen Wold
video | written
Sue Kremser (family)
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