The Reverend Siri Hauge Hustad, September 24, 2023

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer…..

February 6th and February 17 2020 the first confirmed cases of a COVID-19 death occurs in Santa Clara County in California.
February 28th 2020, the third death due to COVID-19 in the United States is confirmed in Seattle WA…

March 19th 2020, the first confirmed death related to COVID in Minnesota, occurs in Ramsey County.

….the state of Minnesota has had over 15,000 deaths because of this illness…a virus too small to be seen by the human eye.

As a nation and as a people – much of these past few years have been filled with isolation and uncertainty, a deadly isolation that many are still afraid to exit …we have been surrounded by fear….death and fear.

Often a sermon is to open up with Hope and wonder and the good news of Jesus Christ; alas that is not my only task for today, at least not in the very beginning.

So who am I — why am I lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to preach to you in your Holy space today

First, greetings to you all from your Minneapolis Cathedral; Saint Marks.
My name is Siri Hauge Hustad and I am presently privileged to be on staff at your cathedral as part of the Shared MinistryTeam. I am also a Licensed Public Health Nurse and first generation American on my fathers side, second generation on my mothers side.

Next week you have the incredible honor of being with Dr. Catherine Meeks, Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, Georgia as part of your communities ongoing journey of cognitively, spiritually and viscerally exploring Racial Justice.

Dr Meeks’ call to vocation and ministry is as teacher. Teacher in God’s beautiful world, as crazy and messed up, and divided as it is.

My call to vocation….spiritual health, physical/medical/dental health as a Right, not a privilege.

The reason I started out speaking on our recent experience with our 21st century Pandemic – the CoronaVirus – is because of the similarities with the 19th century Pandemic of Yellow Fever in Memphis Tennessee and surrounding communities — a virus which had traveled all the way up the Mississippi River starting down in New Orleans.

Today we honor and celebrate Constance, Frances, Ruth, Thecla, Charles and Louis – the Martyrs of Memphis.
Sisters from the Community of St Mary, a religious community started in 1865 in New York City and The Rev’s. Charles Carroll Parsons, and Louis S. Schuyler, both Episcoapl priests, also from the east, who had settled in the Memphis area.

The nurse in me must tell you that Yellow fever is an epidemic-plauge-prone disease that is transmitted to humans by the bites of infected mosquitoes. Death by Yellow Fever is not pleasant. There is now a vaccine as protection against it
And because mosquitoes tend to bred and hang out in areas of still water and waste, it is dis-proportionately transmitted in areas of overcrowding.
Saint Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis was located in the most infected area of the region

Just like COVID, Yellow fever attacked the poor, marginalized families and people of color. And like Yellow Fever, COVID killed more people of Indigenous heritage, Black and brown heritage and those without the “Privilege” of accessible Health Care or the privilege of a safer spot of respite away from the epidemic.

Over a 10 year period of time, Yellow Fever invaded Memphis 3 times. In 1878 the virus raised its ugly head again; one last time. During these epidemics, anyone with any sort of means fled the area. All 3 epidemics, over 30,000 people fled; many never returned to Memphis…
altering the financial landscape of Memphis for decades….making Memphis a waste land for only the poor for quite some time.
Not the bustling, beautiful city we know today.

Mother Constance and her companions did not desire death. They wholeheartedly offered their lives to God as Sisters of prayer, teachers and nurses. Fathers Louis and Charles we can assume the same.
Roll up your sleeves brother, we have work to do! But their lives — they did offer in the end

So why for this feast day do we proclaim the Gospel of John, typically reserved for Holy Week?
John Chapter 12 — where we usually hear about the disciples,. men and women walking the Way with Jesus,
Further into this same chapter of John we are informed of the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.
And then…. Jesus discussing the probability of his death.

His parable or example of the wheat grain is what we are looking for.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”

God the creator loves multiplication – he/she told Adam – go forth and multiply!
He/she told Noah, take 2 of every kind on that boat of yours….

Jesus took 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish and fed 4,000 – now that was some serious multiplication!

We as Midwestiners may have seen fields of wheat…

agriculturally, one grain of wheat all on its own, does nothing…
but falling to the ground, “dying” under the soil…it multiplies. One kernel of wheat planted can produce 8 or more “heads” all on its own. Each head has at least 40 seeds in it…continue sowing that wheat….each individual kernel and soon you have a full field.

You all as St John the Evangelist are planting seeds. You have been planting seeds with your whole selves:
Your Spiritual Life Groups nurture the soul within the context of Intentional communities.
Hunger relief action like your involvement with First Nations Kitchen and the farmers market – you are not standing idle, giving to others and looking around, chest out saying “Look at me!” you are physically involved.
You are planting seeds for others to be fed in one way or another, so that they might live and give on to others.
Your generosity in collaboration with Give Us Wings with time and money has built and supported St. Johns Kayoro Health Center in Eastern Uganda. A public health project very near and dear to my heart.

The Martyrs of Memphis…nuns, priests, doctors, neighbors…they offered themselves to their neighbors. And in some cases, yes…they offered their whole life; dying caring for others.

Can you imagine being a 26 year old newly professed sister of St Mary, traveling from the east coast to a brand new town – people dying around you for a reason NO one understands as yet; caring, washing, praying with them, waving the undertaker down with his horse and wagon for 2 more bodies. Taking in the traumatized orphans
and viscerally understanding that you might be next…
Sister Ruth was 26 years old – her last words were:
“You will take care of my people won’t you?”

Yes Sister Ruth, we will….we will try our best.

We as children of God, created equally in the eyes of the creator, our higher power – whether first generation or 100th, we are tasked to try our best. To learn, to listen, to fail, to get up and learn from it. To share and to plant.

“Those who love their life…… lose it”

But don’t we all need to learn more, feel more, lose our “life” just a wee bit more as we understand the Way and the Truth more…

So remember “Each head of wheat has at least 40 seeds in it…continue sowing that wheat, and soon, very soon…. you have a full field.”

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