Sermon. November 8, 2020
Rev. John Steitz
Fourteen years ago today I had cancer surgery. My left kidney, which had kidney cancer, was removed.
I was diagnosed a few weeks before. People often do not know they have kidney cancer until it has spread. My initial Cat Scan indicated that the cancer had spread throughout my kidney. I remember the urologist showing me the scans. My kidney would need to be removed.
The urologist told me that he was sorry. The weight in his voice, more than the scans themselves, told me this was very serious. He offered me a choice: he could do the surgery to remove my kidney, which he had done a few times before, or I could go to a specialist at Fox Chase Cancer Center who performed this specific surgery several times each week. I opted for the specialist.
My oncologist at Fox Chase was doing a research study with an experimental drug to increase the life expectancy of post-surgery kidney cancer patients. At our initial meeting she invited me to join this study. I agreed.
The time from my initial diagnosis to the surgery was only a few weeks, but it felt like forever. After the surgery the surgeon specialist came by with great news. The cancer which had looked on the scans to be spread throughout my kidney collapsed during removal. It was actually very small. Instead of being stage four it was stage one, A. Later my oncologist told me that I too healthy to be a candidate for the research study.
There was a spot in my lung, but first I needed to recover from the surgery before I could do the follow up tests. Fortunately, as it turned out this spot was nothing to worry about.
I fully recovered. At some later check –up the following year my oncologist told me I no longer had cancer. They had gotten it all during the surgery. I still had CT – Scans, first quarterly, then every six months, then once a year, for several years afterward. But I was out of the woods.
Two things happened during my recovery that are still with me today. First, I began drinking coffee. I had never liked the taste of coffee before. Coffee flows at clergy gatherings and abstaining made me sometimes feel like an outsider. Whatever got me started, by the end of my six-week recovery I could hold my own at clergy gatherings.
Second, and more important, Psalm 118: 24 became my favorite Bible verse. “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Cancer diagnosis, surgery, recovery, follow-ups across several years… all of this moves one to deeply appreciate the daily gift of life.
If nothing else, what I learned from my cancer journey is that TODAY is the day we have been given to live. Embrace it with joy and gratitude.
Sometimes things can look very bleak at first, but turn out okay in the end. We need to take it one day at a time.
God blesses us with the gift of life one day at a time. We are to appreciate God’s daily gift of life with thanksgiving and profound joy.
How will you celebrate today with thanksgiving?
How will you celebrate today with great joy?
How might celebrating today, each day, one day at a time, transform the way you go about living God’s gift of life in this very day? Might your life be transformed one day at a time?
This Psalm verse has given me hope during many days. I even had it engraved for a key chain ring. I’m reminded of the verse whenever I drive our car. Hope is a key currency of the Christ – centered life.
The 1 Thessalonians 4 passage is about hope. There comes a time for each of us when our bodies get to the point where they can no longer accept God’s daily gift of life. This can happen suddenly or slowly, while we are young, or old, or somewhere in between.
I have officiated at funerals for people who were only two months old, and for people who lived more than a century. Regardless of the number of daily gifts of life we are given by God, the day comes when our bodies die.
We believe that Jesus died and rose again. The story of Jesus did not end at his death but continues with his resurrection. Through Jesus, God brings with him those who have died to everlasting life.
The hope that is given to us is that no matter what happens, everything will be alright. Though we die, yet we will live again. Our loved ones who have died live again through Jesus.
When we face a difficult situation God may open the way for us to move forward through the difficulty. Or God’s love through Christ may carry us to the other side. Either way God is present with us.
When we say “God will see us through” we mean that regardless of the outcome God is present with us and that God’s Spirit guides and sustains us in the journey.
Through good days and bad days, happy days and sad days, energizing days and exhausting days…God is present with us and God’s Spirit guides and sustains us.
We are a people who live in Christ and because of this we are a people of hope.