This past week I experienced the death of a parent. My mother of 83 years of age quietly passed away. As far as family members this is only the third. First was a grandmother some 40 years ago, then my dad 19 years ago and now mom.
So at the funerals I have been at, almost all found me on the giving of comfort side as a Lutheran pastor. This past Saturday found me on “the other side.”
And what did I discover? I found myself greatly comforted by the familiar hymns, the funeral liturgy and the reading chosen by my mom’s pastor of 20 plus years. I also found great comfort in just the presence of other family members including cousins, as well as my mom’s friends and the friends of my siblings. At times like these, I would just say to folks “just show up.” Just show up and let people know you care.
In spite of all of that, I found myself wanting to be back at my church. I had already arranged for a guest Christian artist to take as much as half the service time and just sing and testify to God’s grace. I say this not because I had to get back to work (although that is how many men do grieve). I could have gotten the elders to do the service and we could have made last minute changes and no one would have objected under these circumstances.
No, I wanted to be back to be with those I have been doing life with for the last 13 years. And I wasn’t disappointed. After a late trip back from Chicago, I found myself going through over 25 cards already sent from members. And then on Sunday morning there were a lot of hugs and even some tears shed on my behalf.
And I wanted to–I need to— be back to hear Cheri sing. I have heard Cheri Keaggy several times over the recent years. I consider Cheri a friend and ministry partner. So if I had to miss, I had the past experience to look back upon and I will invite Cheri back again in the future.
No, this time it was to hear for myself her song about heaven called “There Will Be One Day.” I had all but told her to sing this song ( I never dictate to my guest artists what to say or sing) when I mentioned that we have several at our church who have lost loved ones this year. Besides that the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without them is looming. When I told Cheri that, I did not know that I would soon be among that group.
And so I just sat back on Sunday. And I received. I received the encouragement and assurance I have in Jesus because He died and rose again. I received assurance that there will be one (everlasting) day when there will be no more death nor tears. (Read all of Revelation). I have the full expectation to see my departed loved ones.
And so it was good to be in church.
So the next time you are sad, lonely, and especially grieving. Don’t go at it alone. Come back to church. Come back home.
Here is a link to a live performance video with Cheri’s song: