Monday, August 24, 2009

Funerals for the Unknown

On Friday I received a call from our local funeral home. A family from out of town was looking to have a funeral for their father (who also lived out of town but wanted to be buried in Thomasville). They requested that a United Methodist Pastor be asked to preside over the funeral. The funeral home director told them that this would probably be a generic service but he would give some people a call. I am not sure how far down the list I was when my phone rang but I felt compassion over the family (and I'll admit it, I could use some extra cash too) and I agreed to do it.

I only talked over the phone with the son and the daughter of the deceased before I met them one hour before the funeral. Due to family conflicts and church commitments I could not meet them before. I admit I was nervous about it but knew I would be providing a good service for this family in their time of grief. What I received was truly, as Wesley put it, a means of grace.

The family was warm and welcoming. More than that, they were grateful of my time and presence there. Both the son and daughter spoke about their father, which allowed me to concentrate my part on what a funeral means to a believer. As I pulled together my meditation the Holy Spirit guided me to say the following...

Rick and Amanda did a far better job than I ever could of telling you about the man they called their father. But like I said Richard is what brings us here today. As I thought about what I would tell you all today I realized what was happening. You all were strangers to me and you have told me about Richard’s life. I was a stranger to you and I am here tell you about Richard's new life.

I saw this as a gift to the family but also to me. God’s presence was there and took an uncomfortable situation and created a holy moment. The family was grateful but I was honored to be welcomed into a moment in their life that they will always remember. Ministry is truly a gift some days.

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