When I texted Rev. Speidel early Tuesday morning to inform her of Jane’s passing, she responded back with the words: “Pillar of the church.”
Jane Adams exemplified the foundation of Central Christian Church in Enid Oklahoma, as I believe Jane Adams, even in her last days on this earth, exemplified the very foundation of the gospel.
The day after they removed her ventilator, one week before she died, Jane asked me to give her an update on what was happening at the church. I knew exactly what she meant. She wanted to know if anything had happened that she would normally be involved with. In particular, she wanted to know if she missed helping to organize, prepare and serve a meal for a family before or following the funeral service of a loved one. For this is what she perhaps loved to do most in the church.
So, I mentioned the passing and an upcoming service for of one of our members, Bob Shaw. She immediately asked (now remember, they just pulled out the respirator less than 24 hours earlier): “Jarrett, have you contacted Dorothy Bracher about serving the church serving a meal for the family?”
I said, “Yes, I called Dorothy, but she is on her way to Texas for the week.”
I will never forget the concern that came over her face. I said, “Jane, don’t worry, I have contacted Irene Green, and she has agreed to plan the meal.”
Jane immediately: “Poor Irene! I don’t think has ever organized a funeral meal. I will help her!”
I said, “Jane, we will be fine, you just worry about getting well.”
She asked, “When is the funeral?”
I sort of chucked and said, “It’s Friday afternoon.”
And before I could say, “but,” she said, “Maybe I will be home Friday morning, and I will be able to help.”
“Jane!” I said with a smile, “Yesterday you were on life support! You don’t need to be worrying about this!”
She shook her finger at me, and we laughed together.
After a moment of laughter, Jane said, “Seriously, I will at least talk with Irene and give her some instructions.”
Jane was a pillar of Central Christian Church because Jane possessed the gift that I believe the scriptures suggest is the pillar of the Church, the gift that is the very foundation of the gospel.
Israel was commanded over and over to show hospitality, not only to fellow Jews, but also to the “sojourner, the stranger in their gates.” Deuteronomy chapter 10 reads, “Remember you were a stranger and a sojourner, and God took you in. Therefore, you do the same.”
This virtue of hospitality is the foundation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Our statement of identity which is displayed at the doors of our sanctuary read: “We welcome all to the Lord’s table, as God has welcomed us.”
Jane Adams emulated this virtue, a virtue that is commanded throughout the Scriptures.
One day, Abraham and Sarah were awakened from their afternoon nap by three strangers by the Oaks of Mamre. Sarah, like Jane did so many times in our church’s kitchen, prepared and served the strangers dinner.
Do you remember the rest of the story? Those strangers turned out to be angels in disguise, angels who blessed Abraham and Sarah for their hospitality.
In practicing her gift of hospitality, her gift of welcome, her gift of being family to strangers, Jane continued the hospitality of the matriarch of our faith who entertained angels unaware.
Throughout his letters, the Apostle Paul picks up on this Hebrew theme by often encouraging the early church to “practice hospitality.” He recounts the words of Hosea to the Church at Rome:
As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call “my people”, and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”.
And at the end of Matthew’s gospel, do you remember what Jesus says is the great test of our faith, the one thing Jesus says that separates the sheep from the goats? Jesus said that the major test of our faith is:
I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
And welcoming strangers into our church after or before a funeral service, becoming like family to them, is not the only way that Jane practiced this great virtue of hospitality.
I had only been in Enid a few hours when I was invited to the home of Tina Swanson for a welcome-to-the-church-new-pastor meal. Guess who else was a part of that meal? That’s right, one of the first persons who welcomed me to Enid as the minister of this church was Jane Adams.
Many people in the church do not even know this, but it was Jane Adams who made sure all children felt welcomed when they entered our education wing, as she decorated, and continually updated the decorations, of the front of our Children’s Library.
Now, I am aware that nearly every church has someone like this who volunteers their time and talents to make children feel welcome; however, more often than not, that someone usually has children or grandchildren of their own in the church. So they have some very personal reasons to make sure that children are welcome.
But this was not the case with Jane. With no children and no grandchildren of her own using our children’s library, Jane only had very divine reasons to welcome the children. Children that were not her own, became her children.
And as rare as this type of gracious hospitality is, none of her own children who are here today are surprised by this.
After teaching elementary school students in France and Germany, Jane returned to San Antonio where she taught at the Randolph Air Force Base for fifteen years. And then on June 6, 1978, Jane married Paul Adams. But here is the thing: Paul brought with him to this marriage, six children.
It was like the Brady Bunch; however, unlike Carol Brady, none of the six children were her own. And unlike Mike Brady, Paul Adams was not an architect, but was an Air Force Pilot.
And not long after they were married, with four kids still living at home, John 16, Lori 12, Philip 11 and James 5, Paul’s duties took him away from home for three months of Commander School.
So there was Jane, a newlywed. Since moving to the home of Vance Air Force Base, I have been told that being a newlywed to an Air Force Pilot has its own challenges. But here was Jane, a newlywed to an Air Force Pilot with a 16, 12, 11 and 5 year old, all of whom she barely knew, suddenly in her home without their father!
However, because of Jane’s innate gift of hospitality, James and John remember Jane being completely dedicated to their family from the get-go. It was like she just jumped right on in saying “well, here we go.”
Although those kids were almost strangers, Jane quickly became their mother, quickly and lovingly became family to them.
This reminds me so much of Paul’s words to the Ephesians. In chapter two, we read:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him, the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.
“Foundation.” “Cornerstone.” Another word for those things is “pillar.”
I believe this is why the Scriptures place so much emphasis on extending hospitality. This is why hospitality is the foundation of not only Central Christian Church in Enid, but of the Church. Hospitality, becoming sisters and brothers, or mothers to others, welcoming the stranger, helps us to welcome God.
When we become a pillar, our souls are forever attached to the pillar, a pillar though shaken will never fail, a pillar that not even death itself can move, because that pillar is none other than Jesus Christ himself.
The good news for all of us today is that there is no doubt in any of our minds that Jane had welcomed Jesus into her life.
She lived for Jesus. She proclaimed Jesus. She emulated Jesus. She was indeed a very part of the structure of the Body of Christ here at Central. In fact, she was one of our most important parts, for she was truly a pillar of this church.
And because of that, we have full confidence that she is forever attached to the pillar of Christ himself.
And here is more good news for her church that she loved and for all of us who are grieving this day: Because Jane welcomed others and thus welcomed Jesus, we have the certain hope that Jesus has now welcomed her. As Jane has welcomed so many people as family to her table, she is now and forever a child of God at the heavenly table.
Matthew writes that the “Kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a [great] wedding banquet (the kind that Jane prepared for so many, figuratively and literally)…[and he said] tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.”
And one of the most hopeful passages in the Bible is found in the book of Revelation: “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God’ (Revelation 19).
The good news for us today is that because Jane welcomed so many, became family to so many, thus welcoming Christ himself, the Lord has now welcomed her part of the eternal household of God. She is seated at the table being waited on by the Lord himself, this day and forevermore.
And what’s more, if we follow Jane’s example by welcoming others, God will one welcome us to join Jane at that table. Amen.