Pastoral Ponderings . . . July 2018

 

Dear God,

     I will die one day.

That is the fundamental reality of life. Well actually, there are two fundamental realities of life: we all suffer and we will all die. (Well actually, there are three fundamental realities of life: the Packers will generally always beat the Bears…but we’ll set that aside for now.)

It all sounds like a macabre thing to talk about, but it’s the truth so I might as well throw it out there to you to let you know I’m OK with it. I don’t like the idea of it, but I’m OK with it.

I might also say that I’ve become OK with it because I’ve been around so much of is. I do a lot of funeral services. I guess you’ve given me a knack or gift for walking into a situation of emotional crisis and allowing me to connect with people. While in Brodhead at my last church the funeral director called to say a pastor wouldn’t to the funeral service for a member of his church because he hadn’t been to church in a long time. I remember the funeral director saying, “The dead have to be buried and deserve a good funeral.”

I’ve always taken Danny Newcomer’s words to heart. Everyone does deserve a good funeral service, so I do my best for friend and stranger alike. While I’m not sure how many people I’ve buried over the 37-years I’ve been a pastor. I don’t have the books for my early church, but I looked up and see that I’ve have done 286 funerals since I’ve been here in Rockton, or about 20 per year.

That’s a lot of people, and a lot of people with many different life stories, and every conceivable age. I know that I’ve done funeral services from people from miscarriages to 101 years of age. So in all of these I can say that yes, I’ve given a lot of thought to the two realities of life: suffering and death (and the fact that the Packers will generally beat the bears).

I’ve tried many times to consider the death of myself and my family. Again, it sounds macabre, but when I’m calling on people who have lost their children or spouse I have to understand what that must feel like. I can’t have a fake empathy…I have to try to understand what that experience would be so I can minister to them. I know. It sounds crazy, but it allows me to be more than a stick-figure walking in to do a job.

So, what’s the context of my rather macabre topic? I think it’s because I’ve had some instances where people have worried about things way beyond their control…not unreasonably (I’d worry about things too), but simply out of their control. And the number one thing people have been telling me is about their fear of death.

The scripture recommended for July 8th is from Matthew 6:24-34: “Therefore do not worry about your life, and such little things as what you will eat or what you will wear….So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of it’s own. Today;s trouble is enough for today.”

     What I see Jesus talking about in those words is is confidence: confidence in the face of both life an death. Confidence that in good times and difficult times you do not leave us. Those words are easy to say when things are good and running on all cylinders, but those same words sound hollow or even mocking when life seems to turn on us and leave us wondering where you are.

In these times I’ve tried to remember the following: that if I am confident that you will hold me in the final mystery of life, my time of death, I can be confident that you will hold me when the events of life seem to turn against me. That’s why I want to get comfortable with the reality of death…because I want to be confident in the realities of suffering in this life.

In a big way, this comfort frees me from worry and anxiety in my daily life and allows me to meet every moment with confidence and joy. I am free to fully live because I know when I die I will be fully taken care of.

As always, thank you for listening to my ramblings. I believe and trust in your presence and power in my life, my Creator and my Redeemer.

Love, Dan