Sermon From the Memorial Service of Kate Paxton

In the name of God, Father, + Son and Holy Spirit, source of true beauty and mystery. Amen.


Kate Lynn Paxton: Is Trinity a Sublime Word for me?

“How deep I find your thoughts, O God! How great is the sum of them! (Ps 139:17).” A casual glance at the painting found on the last page of our bulletin, a painting by Kate Paxton herself, will show you these words come alive. Kate proclaims to us the grace of God’s depth, the gift of sublimity for us today. Kate Lynn Paxton. Mother, Friend, Educator, Playwright and Painter. How great is the sum of the Spirit’s gifts in our life together with her! Our speakers today have highlighted only a sum of such a witness and yet all have pointed towards a Word. A Word of God as a word of sublime hope. The Word that was with God (and is God) in the beginning, made the heavens and the earth, who dwelt and died, is present for us today. This Word has the final say in our lives because, as Kate’s favorite Psalm says: “ [it]…formed my inward parts…intricately woven in the depths of the earth (139:13,15).” This Word, our God, is a master artisan; a knitter, a potter fashioning us for God’s glory. For those of us who had the blessing of knowing our sister Kate, we managed to hear and see this kind of a Word through her art, her nurturing, her friendship.

We all have stories of how conversations with Kate turned from the mundane into the sublime. Approximately one year ago, Kate invited me over for a causal get-to-know coffee chat. We are both Baylor Alumni and so our conversation started thusly until she asked me: How is God Trinity? In other words, how is a deep word about God, a sublime Word from God for my soul? I want to focus on this sublime Word from God as a way for us to be comforted by the same hope we shared with our sister Kate. John wrote our Gospel text precisely to impart hope to us accustomed to this world’s brokenness. This Word, Jesus Christ, dwells in our hearts in our very brokenness, opening our eyes to the mystery of God through faith. In so doing, we receive the manifestation of the Spirit so that with our sister Kate, we may all sing, and comfort, and paint the Word of resurrection hope.

The Word of Hope in us

John marvelously depicts the creation of this world and life all around us as hinging upon the Word. This Word is a divine pattern through which the entirety of existence is weaved. Consider the Word as a loom lacing our life together. This Word endows the entirety of our cosmos with God’s presence or as John understood this: “In him was life , and the life was the light of all people (Jn 1:16).” Let there be light. This light of life, the Word from God, became like and lived among us in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. John, as one of Jesus’ disciples, experienced Jesus as the life-giving Word when he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, Come Out! (Jn 11:43).” Here was the glory as of [The Father’s] only son, full of grace and truth (Jn 11:14).” In countless circumstances in his ministry, Jesus encountered human brokenness and brought for the gift of sublime grace. Jesus brought mirth at the wedding of Cana. Fed five thousand hungry folks. Healed the sick. Welcomed the ostracized Samaritan women at the well.This was and is the life-giving Word that is bringing into being grace out of brokenness, life out of death. Light in the midst of the deepest night of sorrow. This is our soul’s delight, to be made anew in the light of this Word dwelling in the particularity of our brokenness. Kate understood this clearly the last time we talked via zoom. We were shocked and in grief at the death of our dear sibling in the Lord. I did not expect her to pass so quickly after her stroke.

Seeing the Sublime Word

Nevertheless there is a Word. The Word about God is an active and living Word from God entering into human brokenness and death. Jesus’ death and resurrection is how the Word dwelt and dwells with us today. In our brokenness, in our illnesses, as relationships fall apart, and as loved ones die, God becomes for us a sublime and beautiful Word. A Word that join us in our sorrows and in so doing, opens our eyes to, like Kate, Witness the Mystery of God all around. Julian of Norwich put it this way, “And [in the midst] our woe, suddenly our eye shall be opened, and in clarity of sight our light shall be full. This light is God our Creator and the Holy Spirit in Christ our Savior.”

A Manifestation of the Spirit-filled Word

A friend of Kate asked me recently, “Do you think Kate understands the Trinity now?” In some way, I think we must look to you all here and see this answer. For we know that God pours out upon us, the manifestation of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:7) so that this Word may be made known in the comfort we bring to each other. How great a manifestation of the Spirit God has poured out on us all: Eliot, Liza, Asa, Ruby, Carolyn, Janis, and multitude of witnesses; students, friends, folks like myself, the city of Houston. The same Spirit alive and active in our sister Kate carries you forward into the great mystery of God in this life.By faith, we know that She is beyond all knowing. Beyond any answer we could ever provide. Before our Lord, she is basking in this sublime Word: “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for her, so that she might save us (Isa 25:9).” Amen.