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  • Writer's pictureRev. Christopher Tweel

Celebrating



Recently one of our beloved parishioners went home in that most final sense of the word. He was older, true, but it still came as a surprise as he was in that class of older gentleman that belied his age with a ferocity of life still being lived. He taught Sunday School, started initiatives for the mission committee, worked closely with our child care center and met with the pastor to share what God had placed on his heart for the direction of the church in a non-confrontational and loving way. He was a good soul and I will miss him surely, as will our whole family. My daughter had visited him in the hospital a few times, and was always glad to see him returning to Sunday worship evidenced by her giant running hugs.

During the service I came up against something interesting.

This was a service that he had written out himself, from the selection of the scripture to the last poem on the back cover. As we were in the service, as a pastor I had this sense that I desperately wanted everything in this service to go really well. From the clarity of my words as we read through the lessons in scripture to the perfect notes and harmonies of the hymns he had picked. I wanted it to be that way because I felt the pressure to have this service pay homage to a wonderful man that I had known in this earthly life. i wanted him to feel it and hear it from the other side of Heaven and be pleased, and in that moment, I realized that I had it subtly wrong.

This wasn't our last message to him. Something that we would re-create perfectly for him so that in his final glory he would be at peace. Instead, this was he, the teacher, leaving a last word to his friends still captured by the vanities and moralities of earth. This was his last loving gesture to us to remind his gathered family about the heart of who he was as a faithful man and who he wanted us to be.

If there was any homage to be paid to him for his years of influence and loving service in our lives, it would have to be paid out by the living of our lives.

That's an old adage. The idea that a person lives on through the lives of the people they have touched. In our American culture, or maybe it's just me, I don't feel like we look enough at it from the other side. Folks have the drive to touch other's lives as a way of living forever, or at least that seems to be the focus. Instead, how can we honor another person who has been important in our lives with the way we continue to lead our lives.

Perhaps we are good at this in the sense of a one-off event. "I'm doing this for Mom or Dad," and that kind of thing. I wonder how good we are at doing as a continual mode of allowing that person's life on earth to fully and continually change and direct who we are.

At this point I realized what I was really doing was talking about Jesus.

Not that I was trying to effigize my friend into the great I AM, but just that in a very real sense I was describing a life of Discipleship. A continually focused and lived into life that is forever changed and continually changed by the life of one person no longer bodily with us.

I think my friend would have liked my final conclusions. Some folks will never stop teaching.

for Jack


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