Remembering Rodney Sisco

I believe too much in invincibility, but death comes anyway. Sometimes it is inescapable. Sometimes it is unexpected. Always it hurts.

His name was Rodney.

It hurts to see a man so full of love taken away. A man who had impacted my alma mater for three and a half decades, resolving conflict, bringing people together, listening to everyone who came into his office, establishing a space for us students in the Office of Multicultural Development (OMD), caring for students and especially those of color.

He was only in his fifties, but cancer doesn’t care.

Rodney Sisco.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought my future children might know and be blessed by him, this man who so profoundly shaped my life through the OMD. The classes and generations to come, what will they do without him to guide and support and influence and stand up for them?

Rodney Sisco, husband, father, mentor.

He was a gentle man, well over six and a half feet with a huge heart to match. He gave great hugs, and despite his busy schedule, he worked to create times to meet with me in his office when I asked. He had an open jar of candy on his center table and photos of his two sons and his wife covering his desk along with a few geeky trinkets. He was warm and welcoming. He was someone we could trust.

He was a gentle man.

Rodney Sisco, Director of the Office of Multicultural Development.

His skill set was expansive. He was one of a handful of people on campus certified in conflict resolution. He directed the OMD from a small corner office to the central space it is now and worked for the benefit of students, showing what a black man can achieve even at a PWI. He was intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, engaging, patient, gracious, and visionary. We needed him.

Dear Rodney.

He mediated for the whole campus, interacted with most students of color who attended Wheaton College (IL), and spoke life into all the individuals he met. Over the years, he must have impacted many thousands of people. I know I would not be the woman I am today without his influence.

In the few days since Rodney has passed on to be with The Lord (he died on 30 December 2018), I have seen testimony upon testimony about his life and the positive impacts he left. We will remember him well. I pray his legacy will encourage thousands more to come.

~~~

To those of you who would like to be taught by him even in his passing and learn more about his life, here are three of the chapels at which he spoke:

Peace.

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The bloody beauty of Communion

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” While singing a hymn about Jesus, I take a cracker piece from a silver platter and pass it to the Believer next to me. Everyone in the room eats the bread as one, partaking in the first “course” in the Lord’s Supper, otherwise known as Communion or the Eucharist.

Crunch, crunch, mangled flesh. The image revolts me, yet I am chewing this flesh. Raw. It is Jesus’ body, which he sacrificed for me.

“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’” All around me, heads tip backwards as together we sip grape juice from tiny plastic cups. We are proclaiming Christ Jesus’ death. We celebrate the victory of grace Jesus demonstrated when he took our eternal punishment on the Gethsemane cross.

Swallow, gulp, fragrant blood. I shudder; perhaps the woman next to me notices, but she is silent. I detect an aftertaste from the juice. I picture Jesus’ blood on the cross, in my mouth, in my body now, shed for the forgiveness of my sins. For the redemption of the world.

I was raised to view Communion symbolically. I still lean that way. But my Christian Thought class from last spring opened up faith conversations with which I was not always familiar. For example, Roman Catholicism claims we are eating Christ’s actual flesh and drinking his actual blood when we take Communion. This phenomenon known as transubstantiation is derived from Gospel passages like the ones I quoted. Ever since I learned about this, Communion has become a more vivid and powerful reminder of Jesus’ saving sacrifice.

That is the point. At his Last Supper, the Jewish Passover, Jesus began the Christian tradition of Communion, but he never meant for it to be a thoughtless ritual. I do not want to forget his sacrifice despite its physical repulsiveness.

At the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the crowds did not see a handsome, naked man with a perfectly combed beard on some smooth planked pedestal. Nay, they witnessed a bloody, gnarled, practically dismembered body essentially lynched on couple tree branches shaped like a T.

They came to view the humiliation of the two convicts alongside my perfect King, but I don’t know why they were drawn to the inhuman spectacle.

Yet I too am drawn to it, only in a different way. Jesus uses the Communion Table to draw me to himself, for I am part of his body now. His Spirit is in me, and I am his. I do not desire to view his formerly grotesque body in any bloodthirsty manner. Rather, I am grateful, so grateful, that he sacrificed his body for the world and thus for me, so I can spend eternity with God, whole and redeemed and new.

Jesus is full of grace and truth. I must remember him and proclaim his deep love, as demonstrated in his body and blood.

For this reason, I eat his flesh and drink his blood until he returns. And Jesus is coming soon! When he gathers his Church to him and makes all things new, we shall drink wine again in his heavenly kingdom, this time in celebration. The members of his Church, his Body and Bride, will have new bodies. We will be complete and whole, for he is making all things new.

Until then, I remember him. I proclaim his death until his coming. And through his death, I live.

Words of wisdom from my Connecticut graduation

“Life has many blessings; cherish them. Maintaining loving relationships and enjoying the basic things of life are more important than wealth.” -Ms. Cookie Yopp

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Lately I’ve been missing Connecticut, the state in which I was socialized, and some dear people there such as my second family, the Vecchios. While enjoying the warming temperatures at Wheaton, I’ve been reminiscing on sunny Saturday mornings spent at the Cheshire High School track cheering for Dad’s long distance runners. I’ve also been remembering the importance of some things I learned more recently in another place that shaped me: Denver, where I learned the importance of introspection and rest.

Today I am enforcing those disciplines for the few hours I have free. After church and brunch, I returned to my room to relax and do some crafts, exhausted from being with so many people all week and having to talk every hour. While delving into my craft supplies, I found old cards from my high school graduation.

“We’re proud of you,” my friends, cousins, aunts and uncles wrote. They told me they loved me and that I am welcomed and amazing. They also encouraged me to keep pursuing Jesus.

I do not repeat their comments out of pride but rather out of a deep sense of amazement that I could be so loved. I thrive on words of affirmation and also need to keep hearing them to remember the truth about who I am. Someone saying “I’m proud of you” has a crazy impact on me. Reading my friends’ notes about my talents encouraged me, and nearly everybody brought their point back to God: Follow His ways. Trust Him. Love Him.

I’d like to share from these graduation cards some words of wisdom similar to the proverb at the top. Please be encouraged and amazed at how mighty God is.

“As long as you remember to keep God a vital part in your life, you really can’t go wrong.” -Rachel Wittman

“The enemy trembles at your advance, because you and Jesus are one, and your love for Him is greater than all else…Keep your lion-like boldness and let your dreams know no boundaries, because you have seen that with God, nothing is impossible.” -Erica Kyne

“(The Lord) has a plan and a path for your life. Be sensitive to His leading.” -Mr. and Mrs. Harris

“(God) will never let you down!” -cousins Kelly and Mike Heckman

“Hold on to your faith and you will go far in life.” -Jessica Bennett (my French prez)

“This is an exciting time for you, and God will guide you every step of the way.” -Aunt Theresa Boyes

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” -2 Chronicles 15:7 (from Aunt Sue and Uncle Tom Gerace)

“Just remember that you don’t have to have it all figured out and you’ll never be alone with God by your side. Don’t get overwhelmed; let God handle the decisions. And HAVE FUN! Enjoy life and remember it only comes once (on earth!)” -Sarah Bennett (the friend, not cousin)

With this in mind, have a restful Sunday and a Spirit-led rest of the year! (I say that as a college student nearing the end of my second undergraduate year, unsure of what comes next.)

In God’s grace,

Skye

“But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.” -Relient K