Carol Joubert Farewell

September 16, 2012, Psalm 1, II Corinthians 4:7-12

Today is a day of great transition in our congregation. Today we are saying farewell to Carol Joubert, sort of.  Carol has been our director of Christian education for more than 13 years. She was the first person the church hired after I arrived to serve as your pastor. I say we are "sort of" saying farewell to Carol because for the last 7 years she has also worked as the lead teacher for the preschool. She continues in that capacity, so we will still have Carol around here Monday through Friday mornings.

A member of the congregation who couldn't be here today, responded to the email inviting everyone to honor Carol with these words: "I'm so glad she is getting some recognition for all the work she does. Did you ever watch the woman?" She is always moving, anticipating, caring!

I have loved having Carol on the church staff. Carol is a fabulous teacher. She is very creative and flexible. She truly brings energy, intelligence, imagination and love to her work. In addition to have heard a call to teach, she is also a mom—and there are many times when I see Carol acting as a mom as much as she is as a teacher. Carol's kids are a little older than my own, and I have benefitted enormously from watching her deal with situations that I know await me as my kids get older.

Carol and I have shared a lot through the years. There have been times of great joy and great frustration. I believe Carol is proudest of the Wednesday afterschool program that was started, I think, in 2004. That program was started in the middle of the year, which means that it started with no money in the budget. For Presbyterians, starting a program without money to pay for it is an act of great faith. The Wednesday afterschool program was such a good idea, and it filled such a deep need, that the program took off and flourished. I remember feeling great anxiety the first time God's Angels danced in worship. I was worried about how the congregation would feel about dance as an act of worship—and the girls were planning to dance to music that was nothing like we had ever had in worship before. I wasted a lot of energy worrying. I could see not just joy, but pride in your faces as the girls—some of whom are now college graduates—danced in praise of God. Carol led this church into taking a big risk—and we all benefited from that.

Last Wednesday would have been the start of the after school program for this school year, but the Session decided to suspend it. There were a number of factors that made this a wise decision—one of which is that we do not have Carol around to keep everything going.  It was quiet here Wednesday afternoon.  I confess I missed the noise, excitement and vitality that the Wednesday afterschool program brought into our building each week.

Most of Carol's work as Christian education director happened behind the scenes.  She was here during the week assembling projects for Sunday school and the after school program. She wasn't in the spotlight much and because of that I think none of us recognized how many things Carol took care of routinely. There were some moments when Carol and I had to deal with some very difficult and sensitive situations and I came to not just trust Carol in these situations, but to rely on her. Not only is she a mom, with that whole skill set, she is passionate about caring for, and loving all of the church's children. When I started to think about today's sermon, two words came to me that describe Carol's approach to seeing that our children grow in faith. The words are "precious" and "treasure."  Carol always keeps in mind that the children of the church are our most valuable asset. It's not just their freshness and innocence, but also they are the ones who will tell the world about Jesus after we are gone. The children are precious, because their role is so important. The second word, "treasure" is both a noun and a verb. I have seen Carol treasure the treasure that our young people are as she has made sure that Sunday school, youth group and the after school program have been there to shape our young people. It's this second word, that suggested today's New Testament reading.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians telling them that God did an amazing, unexpected, surprising thing God put something valuable and precious into clay jars. God poured the love of Christ into people who are made of soil. That's a nutty thing to do! If you have something valuable you guard it, you take care of it, you protect it.  That's not what God did. Think about that! God took the most precious thing that there is and put into bodies like ours. God gives this gift all the time, every day, to ordinary people like us. Do you feel precious? Do you feel cherished by God? Do you feel beloved? You are.  And God decided to give these great gifts to ordinary people like us to show how great and powerful God is. God can work with anything.

Paul goes on to remind his readersthat life is difficult. That no one escapes pain, hardship, struggle and despair.  But the love that God shows in Jesus Christ is stronger and more real than anything life can throw at us.

I heard someone make an excuse the other day, I'm sure you've heard it too.  He said, "I'm only human." And I know what he meant, something like, "I'm not perfect and I accept that." But for some reason I found this statement "only human" to be a profoundly mixed image.  To be human is to be made of clay, just as Paul tells us, but it is also to be loved and cherished by the Living God. It is to recognize and accept that people have been made in God's image. That that identity is to be claimed and lived. To be "only human" is to have value because of who made you and because of who you are. I have seen Carol teach. I have seen her face as she listens, really listens to little ones. She knows what a treasure they are—what a treasure we all are.

She knows the importance of teaching the difference between right and wrong. Teaching God's love, teaching right from wrong to children at the earliest possible age helps them to grow like a strong tree planted by streams of water that the psalm describes. People who get a strong start grow into people whose lives bear fruit. Carol knows this. Carol lives this. Carol has spent 13 years not just teaching our young people, but teaching the whole congregation to cherish and value the treasure that is our little ones. Amen.