Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Batting Clean-up

I have had some great privileges given to me in the last couple of years not the least of which is coming to serve solely (soul-ly?) in Madison.  Some of these privileged moments came by way of hardship or sad news.  It wasn't easy but I was honored to help bury my friend Charles, and more recently to see to the interment of Eulalie's remains.
It wasn't long ago that we laid to rest Frank Kelley.  I loved the stories his sons told.  Just as beautiful was the way Bud Osborne's sons took their turns in focusing our memories as they honored his passing.
In preparation for those events I have found comfort in the Easter proclamation that we have been repeating to open and close our Sunday worship. We celebrate with extra Alleluias, even in the midst of our grieving that God has raised Jesus from the dead.  What I have told these families is that we can accommodate all sorts of eulogies, remarks and remembrances as long as we let that Easter song be the last thing we "sing."  
One time I told the family that since there were going to be three speakers, my job would be to "bat clean-up."  I wasn't thinking it at the time but looking back now I see my role as providing some comfort.  They could relax in their comments because of the cover provided by closing with a version of our Easter song.
I think the comfort they found came from realizing that there was an even greater hope than the one that could be secured by their emphasizing the goodness of the one now gone because God would still care for the one they were remembering and releasing.  Some of the memories that have come with that assurance of God's mercy and grace are more freely shared, enjoyed, and in a few cases laughed at more heartily.  
Those were golden moments made brighter by God's promise.  That same promise, the one we proclaim intentionally, especially in this season makes all kinds of thing possible.  Things that would at least discourage us if not shrink us into despair can be met and managed when we remember that God is good, so good as to raise us from the dead, too.
My imagination is of a church, that is bold and fearless, happy and hopeful, forgiving and graceful because it is so sure in that promise of resurrection.  
One of the little ways that I get to demonstrate that assurance is to do some of the clean-up.  Not only to speak the Easter proclamation in my funeral homily but also to say thank you when volunteers have stepped up, to recognize milestones, to bless offerings, to connect people in their similarities and complementarities, to encourage, and to celebrate even in the midst of grief.  
Especially when things are hard to do, it is important for us to get to the Easter promise as anchor, as frame, as foundation.  Alleluia! Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

PS: While I've got your attention let me clean-up some errors and omissions.  In recalling how everyone had helped so well to make our farewell to Deacon Charles a celebration fit for Madison to join I failed to point particularly to the incredible work done by our Flower Guild.  Both Easter Sunday and Charles' memorial service were blessed beyond believing by the flowers.   
Here are a couple of pictures.  Wow!  Thank you! 

PPS: For sure there are other missed moments in recognizing the efforts of so many.  We need to say a bigger thank you than the one we wedged into Sunday's 10:30AM service to Bunny Lawton for having designed the visitor and prayer cards which the Newcomer's Committee have just revised and replaced.  Thank you, Bunny!

PPPS: All those who attended 10:30AM this passed Sunday were party to the scheming of one Brian Lehman and Ginger Kroeber his accomplice.  For those who missed, we each sat in the same pew on the opposite side of the church from where we normally sit.  A good joke that brought a new perspective to many.  It was fun! Thanks!

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