Neko Case’s song ‘Hold On, Hold On’ begins “The most tender place in my heart is for strangers.” I was listening to it as I wrote the article for the front of the SMC newsletter introducing the theme for Lent: Holding on, Letting go. During this time of pondering that to which we will hold fast, and that which we will give up or let go, those close to us seem an obvious inclusion in the ‘in’ column. The tender place in our hearts is reserved for our dearest loved ones. Strangers are extraneous.
It was about this time two years ago that I commemorated the life of Carole Marnet, a dear woman from our congregation who died after a battle with cancer – her third. I still smile when I remember her. Always ready with a tight hug, she had a constant sparkle of mischief in her eyes and she was gentle but strong. She loved her family fiercely and proudly, telling anyone who would listen about the accomplishments of two daughters. She would have been overjoyed at the birth of twin granddaughters a year after her death. But Carole also had a very tender place in her heart for the ‘stranger’.
She was tough advocate for people who many would ignore or despise. Carole welcomed into her home, a man who had for many years had lived in his van. From stranger to loved one.
Although we let go of Carole two years ago, I believe that what is worth holding on to is her legacy of love of stranger. I am so grateful to have known her. I thank God for her fierce and loving presence in my life. Marilyn prayed on Sunday as she began her sermon 'Make our hearts to be tender, that we may welcome you.' Indeed, Christ often comes as a stranger, and I pray too that we might be open to receive him.