Oct. 28, 2001 Sermon by Chris Hawkins

This beautiful sermon was written by someone not knowing the Kristin we all knew, Chris Hawkins read of Kristin's death and was inspired to write the sermon you see below. Please take the time to read the beautiful words and may they give you comfort and may we always remember the spirit of Kristin!

May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, Oh Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Simon and St Jude. Not much is known of these two saints save that they are included in the list of the Twelve Apostles. Simon is called “the Zealot” and may have been a member of a radical political group of the time.
There is even less certainty about St. Jude. In the Letter of Jude, which may have been written by him, he gives himself the title "brother of James", which is the meaning of the name Thaddeus by which Jude was also known. In the opinion of some scriptural scholars, St Jude was the full brother of St James the Less, who was regarded as Christ's first cousin. On this reckoning, then, St Jude too would be counted a first cousin of Our Lord.
However, today Jude is known as the patron of desperate causes, the saint of last resort - the one whom you ask for help when all else fails. (I understand that the Rector has rediscovered devotions to St Jude since I became his Curate!) A quick scan of the personal column of ‘The Times’ reveals many acknowledgements to St. Jude for prayers that have been answered. During my research for this sermon, I discovered a St. Jude website, which recommends special prayers for those who are desperate. The site has long lists of those who pray for relationships to be salvaged and health to be restored.
Tradition has it that prayers were only made through Jude, once all other saints had been tried first. Christians were reluctant to utter his name, for fear that it be confused with Judas Iscariot, our Lord’s betrayer. Hence, Jude’s position at the bottom of the intercessory pile!
Western tradition tells us that St Jude exercised his apostolic ministry in Mesopotamia. Following this, he joined St Simon in Persia, where they preached together, made many conversions and were martyred. One day an enraged pagan mob fell upon the gentle and good Jude, and bludgeoned him to death. That is one reason why St. Jude is today pictured holding a club - in memory of his martyrdom. The bodies of St. Jude and St. Simon have lain in St. Peter's in Rome for many centuries. St. Jude was a tireless and successful worker. He gave of himself not only in life but in death as well, in the service of the Gospel.
Well, this might have been where the sermon ended, had it not been for the ‘Orlando Sentinel’. When I returned from my recent holiday in the USA, I brought with me, several copies of American newspapers, partly because I had not had time to read them properly, but also because they provide a fascinating insight to the nation’s collective psyche at this pivotal point in world history. I am sure that today’s is only the first in a whole series of ‘Orlando Sentinel’ sermons – so be warned!
I was taking a break from writing the sermon because the inspiration just would not come, and was on the verge of praying to St. Jude, when I started to scan the obituaries column, or page as it is in the ‘Sentinel’. I guess that gives you some insight into my mental state at the time, that even the obituaries seemed inspirational!
Well, just like everything else in The States, they “go large” on obituaries.
You will see from this that photographs are included and quite long write-ups, which acknowledge all who have survived the deceased, their place of work, their hobbies and interests and their religious affiliations. It was very interesting and moving to read the accounts of the lives and deaths of these citizens of the Orlando area. Here, the great and the small are celebrated side by side. A “no-nonsense” hairdresser (I shudder to think what that means) sits alongside a company director; a “homemaker” rubs shoulders with the school cook and the Supreme Court Justice.
As I read, I could not help reflecting how death irons out the wrinkles of status and worth. Here, in the obituaries page, there are no lost causes, only lost and treasured loved ones. Yet, my eye was caught by a particular tribute to a young woman of 32, named Kristin. The reason it attracted my attention was because the reader was invited to “visit Kristin’s website”. My goodness, I thought, even when you’re dead in America, you can still have your own website! I determined to take a look, wondering what mawkish horrors would be revealed.
However, I was immediately chastened when I accessed the site, for here was the story of a beautiful and courageous woman. Kristin had been born with severe Spina Bifida and the website recounts in words and pictures, a life of struggle and determination to beat her handicap. She had put the site together herself and had given it the title ‘Overcoming Spina Bifida to celebrate life’.
And, indeed, the site was a celebration of life. Kristin, whom others would have written off as a ‘lost cause’ at birth, had lived 32 years of life in all its fullness. She had graduated from college with a more than respectable qualification. She held down responsible jobs, had appeared in plays alongside her more able bodied peers, and had even learned to ski. Kristin, it seemed from her own testimony and the testimonies of those who had known and loved her, had taken life by the scruff of the neck and refused to be written off. She simply did not believe in lost causes, for to her, everything was possible; the God whom she believed in is the God of possibilities, the God to whom nothing and nobody is a lost cause. One of her favourite quotes, which she lists on the site, says:
"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going, When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this...you haven't".
I wondered what Kristin would have made of the St. Jude website.
I have a hunch that she would not have used it, even though she appears to have been a woman of great faith. Yet, all those prayers and petitions to St. Jude are, in a way, saying what Kristin believed - that all possibilities have not yet been exhausted; that there is a chance my prayer will, even now, when things seem desperate, still be answered.
So, you might ask, should we actually ask the saints for their prayers?
One often hears of people praying to a saint, but that is misleading and unfortunate. In older English "pray" simply meant to request politely. In this view, praying to a saint is simply the idea of asking a fellow Christian to intercede with God on one's behalf. It is not different in principle from asking any Christian friend to pray for you. It could be more helpful to think of St. Jude, for instance, joining us as we pray to God for our needs, even those that we deem to be lost causes.
Undoubtedly asking one's fellow Christians in heaven for their prayers is something that can be abused. It can readily degenerate into the notion that getting what you want from God is a matter of knowing what channels to go through, what strings to pull. One ends up thinking of heaven as a place like the seat of a corrupt government, where favours are traded and deals are made. But the fact that something can be abused does not mean that we ought to give up its proper use. Surely one of the most valuable truths of the Christian faith is that God's love for us moves us to love in return, not only God but also one another, so that every Christian is a mirror in which the light of Christ is reflected to every other Christian and, indeed, to the world in which we are called to live.
God wants us to owe our spiritual well being, not just to Him, but also to one another. Hence He has told us to pray for one another, within the bond of Christian love, and this bond is not broken by death. To feel myself surrounded by the love of God and of my fellow Christians, living and dead, is important. To love in return, by praying for my fellow Christians as well as for my own concerns, is important.
The book of Jude, the shortest New Testament book, is written to defend the faith against those who would distort Christian doctrines. The writer understood the greatness of what had been entrusted to him – the Good News of God’s love, and he beseeches all Christians to tell and show people of this love. In this, our joint task, we value the prayers of our fellow Christians, living and dead so that the God of possibilities may be made known to all in this troubled world, especially at this time when we are tempted to think that human kind is a lost cause. In this way, those whom we give up on, and those who consider themselves to be lost causes, may be enfolded by the community of faith and embraced by the God who counts none as lost - neither the hapless Curate struggling over a sermon, nor Kristin struggling joyfully against all the odds to beat a crippling genetic illness. Not even Osama bin Laden; not even Judas Iscariot…
We who are gathered here today and in every other place of Christian worship across the land, delight in the knowledge that when we praise God, our voices are part of a great chorus of saints - saints still on their pilgrimage, and perfected saints, among them St. Jude.
I end with this prayer from the book of Jude:
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time and now and for ever. Amen.


You may want to celebrate Kris' life by sending a donation to:

The Center for Spina Bifida & Related Conditions
Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 North Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205

Acknowledge to:
Tina & Jim Palmborg
Lewis & Clark Square
250 W. Main St. # 501
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Email The Palmborg's here

Click here to read a lovely letter from Kristin's parents.

Click here to read a letter from Kristin's doctor, and see how your donations are helping.

See the list of the wonderful family and friends who have contributed to keeping Kristin's memory alive.

See the pictures from Kristin's birthday celebration.

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