These three abide...

One of the things I cherish about pastoral ministry is helping families prepare a funeral. Odd? Perhaps, but it is such a privilege to sit with those who have loved deeply and tell stories, listen carefully so that we might pull together the essence of what will become our last formal celebration of a person's life. Other, more informal blessings will happen, to be sure. We're planning such a gathering a year from now when we set my mother and father's ashes to their final resting place in Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagogg-chaubunagungamaugg.  But the closing ceremony of a person's life should be bathed in respect, reverence, love, humor, honor, humility and hope - so I ache to bring my best to these times. 

With gratitude, I had another of those sacred times this afternoon. I heard new stories about Grace who, at 94, left life much in the manner she lived it: with verve, faith, a commitment to caring for others and tenderness. We laughed and wept together, shared hymns and scripture along with many, many memories. As my predecessor in this office later wrote: this clan was filled with wonderful people. And if Grace isn't already in the warm embrace of God, there is no hope for any of us. It was holy ground, indeed.

My ministry has come to rest upon honoring these times - that and helping young people know they are beloved and making music with creative souls. St. Paul said: Faith, hope and love, these three abide, and I concur. But for me it would be these three abide: gently guiding grieving people towards the grace of God in hard times, playing with teens who want to be taken seriously and making music with artists who are in love with beauty. 

There were no clearly defined expectations for this funeral - just a collection of notes and poems - and memories of a life lived well and full. One hand written snippet made a nod to T.S. Eliott's "Four Quartets" and the four salvages - stones off Cape Ann, MA.

For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled...

Tonight I give thanks to God for the fullness of this day.


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