My preaching minister shared it with his church family this morning as he closed his remarks on the topic “Draw Near To God” that he had chosen many weeks ago, and delivered in the aftermath of Friday morning’s tragic accident that took a dear sister from among us.
He had tried to relate what had happened that morning; how he and his wife had been called and arrived minutes later … how he had pleaded with God from the driveway to intervene, but that Kim was already gone. He told how the day had progressed with ambulance, police, and family arriving … how the gathering of church family on the lawn had meant so much … how difficult it was to accompany a grieving husband through the process of planning a funeral, and then selecting a casket for his beloved ….
Then my minister lost all composure and wept openly with us, able to speak only a few more words of truth from his heart that were angry and defiant and empathetic and pure gospel: “A man should not have to choose a casket for his wife.”
One of our elders shared in that moment of grace as well, coming up to stand behind him and lay hands on his shoulders, silently strengthening our minister so he could complete his simple invitation: “Draw near to God.”
He’s absolutely right. A man should not have to choose a casket for his wife. Nor vice versa, nor a parent for a child, nor a child for a parent, nor a minister for an estranged member, nor a mortician for a penniless complete stranger. There shouldn’t be death anymore; Jesus conquered it once and for all … but there is still sin in the world, and sinleadstodeath sinleadstodeath sinleadstodeath.
Somehow, after all that has transpired since Friday morning, two of our ministers managed to conduct a funeral this afternoon and several elders extemporaneously took responsibility for conducting worship this evening.
I’ve been to churches where pew-warming scorekeepers might grade down a minister for such a moment of grace; they would think him weak in character and profession and faith. I don’t think we have any of them left at our church anymore; judgmental attitudes are never really at home in an environment of loving community, and they don’t tend to stay.
But this morning I saw a servant for whom death is more than an intellectual exercise in scriptural interpretation. I saw someone willing to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. I saw a shadow of One weeping at the tomb of His dear friend Lazarus.
And in spite of human despair, I saw divine hope.