IN THANKSGIVING FOR THE LIFE OF
22 July 2017
Based on Isaiah 25:6-9, Psalm 23, and Matthew 11:28-30
About six weeks ago Gladys’ family contacted Lyonsville asking me to lead this memorial service. They had never met me, I had never met Gladys, but this is Gladys’ church. This is not the first time I have officiated at a service for someone whom I never met – neither the first time in my career nor the first time since serving Lyonsville.
I am always grateful when family members supply their reflections, both in their own voices and in writing for me to read on their behalf. It is a greater task to both eulogize a life and place that life in the context of our shared faith. When family and friends can offer their remembrances, then I am left to the focused task of reflecting on the conclusion of a life of faith.
Someone once asked me if it is easier or harder to officiate a service for people I knew or never met. My reply then is as it is now: it’s different.
Over the past six weeks, as I have prepared for this service, I kept encountering memories of two very significant experiences that have influenced every funeral and memorial service I attend or lead.
One was a seminary mentor, a professor of pastoral care, who said that no matter what the loss, it was never just about that one loss but all the losses we encountered in life. It’s right there in the opening words of the liturgy: We gather here as God’s people, conscious of others who have died and of the frailty of our own existence on earth.
As we gather today to remember Gladys and celebrate her life, this day is not only about our losing her but all of our losses – all the people whom we have loved and who have died, the friends who we have lost touch with over the years, divorces and job losses and the losses that come with moving from house to house or city to city.
The second experience requires a longer story. My senior year of high school, I started to work at a Dairy Queen. I already knew the owner, Bob, because I was a frequent customer at the Dairy Queen; because my parents owned a business, they knew each other. And Bob was a good church man – not at the congregation I attended, but one to which my congregation was connected. At the time I started working for him, he had been the head usher at his church for 25 years. Continue reading