My pastor, friend, and sister, Nicole Rosato has gone on to be with the Lord. That’s a Christian euphemism for death. She’s dead. And my eyes are welling up with tears as I write this. If you know me then you know I don’t condone crying but for three reasons: a broken bone; the presence of the Holy Spirit; and the loss of a loved one. I’ve lost a loved one, although in reality she’s not lost since I know exactly where she is: in the presence of the Lord.
I’ll spare everyone the details of her passing other than to say that her brain ceased functioning this past Sunday night, a few hours after I left her and her husband to go down to Delaware with our friend and brother. We shared a nice meal together, went back to their house, joked for a while, and then we left. I didn’t get the news about what happened until Monday night because my other pastor, her husband, didn’t want to bother us on our sabbatical. It wouldn’t have been a bother. The next morning we drove home and went immediately to the hospital to pray for a miracle.
We prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. We laughed and joked and praised God, confident that he’d raise her to life. Even as I type this, saddened by her passing, I haven’t lost hope that she could get up. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. We held a prayer meeting at the church and people showed up in force. On the one hand it was a wonderful sight to see so many gathered to pray for the recovery of my pastor, friend, and sister. On the other hand righteous indignation stirred within my bones as I half considered rebuking the crowd for showing up to pray for a woman of God while hardly every darkening the doorways of the church to worship God himself.
It wasn’t the time though. It was a time to petition, give thanksgiving, and rejoice in the hope that we have as believers in a resurrected Lord. President Obama wrote a book called The Audacity of Hope. I haven’t read it. Probably never will. But the title speaks to me. In a world marred by sin and inundated with evil, we have the audacity of hope; the audacity to hope. Audacity could mean a willingness to take bold risks or it could refer to rude behavior. We’re bold enough to believe a story that the world deems foolishness. We risk all in the service of Jesus, or at least we should. We’re rude to the prevailing powers of the world; willing to spit in the face of despair in order to say, along with Job, that we know our Redeemer lives, and in the end he will take his stand on the earth!
I had the opportunity to minister to more people today at work than I probably have in the last two years combined. People were calling my phone, the barbershop phone, and showing up in droves to ask what happened. The sadness they all shared was combatted by the joy I exuded. I explained that the same God who raised Christ from the dead was able to raise my pastor, friend, and sister Nicole if he saw fit. I haven’t lost hope that he will. But even if he doesn’t do it now, he will some day, because the Christian has the hope of resurrection. The resurrected Christ is the firstborn of many brethren. As he is, so shall we be. So I miss my sister at the moment but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I will see her again.
Qohelet tells us that to everything there’s a season. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted. My dear pastor, friend, and sister has experienced the first three of these seasons and she will experience the fourth, as will we all in the resurrection. Right now it’s a time to weep/mourn and a time to laugh/dance. We weep because the death of a loved one reminds us that the world we live in is the result of the fall. Death wasn’t on the menu until Adam and Eve started ordering off the menu. But that tree of life that they were denied access to will be made available to those in God’s kingdom at some point in the future. I look forward to enjoying that fruit with my pastor, friend, and sister.
It’s a time to laugh and dance because we can remember all the good times we’ve had with our departed loved ones. And the believer can laugh because we know that death is an enemy who has already been defeated. O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting? Under Jesus’ foot, that’s where! We laugh, and dance, and rejoice in the presence of our God because we have the audacity to hope; the hope of resurrection!
Now as you read this you might be wondering why I’ve consistently referred to Nicole Rosato as my pastor, friend, and sister. The short answer is because she was/is! It’s that simple. But it’s more premeditated than that. She’s been one of my pastors for a few years. She’s been my friend for more than a dozen. But above all, she’s my sister; as much my sister as the one my mother gave birth to. My entire life I grew up with a sister who was close in age and who I’ve known well and have been extremely close with. I can honestly say the same of Nicole, who is the same age as my biological sister (35), and has been with me my entire Christian life.
We’ve laughed and argued and done just about everything in between, just like me and my biological sister. We have always been painfully honest with one another and have never been afraid to offer a sharp rebuke when needed. In fact, the day before her death, we got into an argument over something stupid but made up immediately after it happened. We were both exhausted from operating on little to no sleep and cooking a ton of food (which neither of us was completely satisfied with if I’m honest). But in the hours before her death I stood in her kitchen and ribbed her with a smile. She ribbed me back and we parted company laughing.
Even as I stood in her hospital room I joked that I might punch her in the face in a fit of Wigglesworth inspired faith. I took selfies with her as she laid hooked up to a breathing machine. Some might see my behavior as insensitive; others may think it crass; but that’s the kind of relationship we had. I know she would have laughed if she woke up and saw the pictures. I have no idea if pictures will be allowed in the new earth, but if I can manage to get my S5 into the kingdom we’ll have a laugh about it then.
I miss my pastor. I miss my friend. But most of all I miss my sister. I love her and await the day when I’ll see her again in glory, whenever that may be. May her memory be for a blessing! Requiescat in pace!