Four Funerals and a Wedding

Recently I was asked what I liked best about being a pastor. Now I was standing in a line of preachers about to process forward for an ordination service, so I did not have time to think, nor answer anything short of a “tweet”. I said something about seeing people in our community that the church has helped. And that is a true thing. Over the past few weeks I have seen people who attend our Shepherd’s Kitchen meal ministry, or people who the church has been able to help in various ways (physically and spiritually). And seeing them in public, in the “real world” so to speak is always nice. One family who benefited from our church’s willingness to help expressed their gratitude and told me some great things going on in their lives now.

But now that I have had a chance to ponder the question more, I think one of the best things about being a pastor is seeing the connections between what we do on Sunday morning and a person’s life the rest of the week. This is the eternal connection between God and us that we so need and desire. This is living in the “thin places” those places where the barrier between Heaven and Earth are thin – places where God’s presence is felt more powerfully.

During May and June, we had four deaths in the congregation. Two of them were an elderly couple who died within ten days of each other. It was a grueling couple of weeks. I gave up vacation time to tend to the families and prepare the services. Two of the funerals were held on the same weekend, so it was a very busy time. Our women’s group, (as always), was wonderful putting together funeral lunches and the entire church responded by checking in with the families and helping with the services. I am extremely grateful that our church still has people willing and able to help with funeral lunches.

Funeral services always have that air of sadness around them. Obviously people are grieving and hurting, but there is also a sense of celebration. We celebrate the lives of the deceased – we celebrate the lives of our loved ones. And we celebrate the resurrection – knowing that death is not the final answer to life. The word of God connects to people at funerals. Funerals are always at the thin places.

But during this time we also celebrated a marriage. I officiated at the wedding of a young couple in the church. And here is also where the word of God connects with people. As I delivered the sermon based on Paul’s “Love Passage” from First Corinthians 13, I stressed how the wedding day, while a happy day, is not the most joyful day of the marriage. That comes tomorrow (and the tomorrow after that and so on). Every day is an opportunity to love our spouse just a little bit more – loving them with the servant love of Jesus. And these words connected – even to a congregation where divorce has happened, where love did not last a lifetime, where pain still exists. But God’s word can penetrate that pain. His word always brings hope. And that hope was seen on the faces of those present at the wedding. Weddings are held in the thin places.

So, what do I like about being a pastor? Seeing the connections between each other, and most important, seeing the connections between God and humanity – seeing people at the thin places. May God bless you abundantly, and may you always sense the thin places around you.

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