Bishop Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai began the Memorial Service reading Luke 13:10-13 (CEB) and said death bends us over—the death of a spouse or parent—the death of a colleague or friend—the death of a child. The sense of loss and grief that comes with death. These kinds of experiences bend us over.
Those words were read in silence as Bishop Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai stooped at the front of the stage at the beginning of the Memorial Service during the 2023 Iowa Annual Conference session. She began with a scripture reading from Luke 13:10-13 and slowly stood up as she read. The service memorialized 18 clergy, 24 clergy spouses, a former conference chancellor, and 13 closed churches.
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“Illness also bends us over. So does loneliness, the break-up of sweet relationships, economic hardship, marginalization, strife—they all bend us over—until, sometimes, we are half bent over like this woman in our Gospel story,” said Bigham-Tsai. “Some illness had bent her over for 18 years. But I doubt it was the illness alone. I imagine it was also the isolation and loneliness that came with her illness. I imagine it was also the grief over the loss of her mobility and function.”
Bigham-Tsai said in the scripture she read that even though it was the Sabbath, Jesus was not distracted by the religious observances. He noticed the woman’s pain and suffering, and when he saw her, he stopped what he was doing and redeemed and healed her. She straightened up at once and praised God.
Read Bishop Kennetha’s Sermon
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“In the midst of all this loss, God calls us to see people in their need—to see the ways in which life has bent them over,” said Bigham-Tsai. “God calls us to resist the temptation to be so caught up in our own arguments and contentions that we cannot see those who are suffering around us. Because, friends, it is only when we see them that we can be vehicles for Christ’s healing and redemption in their lives.”
She concluded her sermon by saying, “When we are vehicles for Christ’s redemption and healing—they can straighten up and praise God, and we can too. We can all straighten up and praise God together—just like the woman straightened up and praised God—just like those we honor and remember today have straightened up and are praising God with all the saints in heaven. Can you imagine what their praise must be like? Can you imagine the joy they must be experiencing? Can you imagine our loved ones praising God in heaven right now?”
Bigham-Tsai performed an interpretative dance of how the saints must be dancing and praising God in heaven.