A NEW LEARNING
Today I attended the funeral of a college friend. In the sunshine I drove my MX5 convertible with the top down, radio banging out some hard music and I loved the 45 minute trip.
My friend died of cancer at age seventy-one after a protracted six year struggle. She was uncomplaining, buoyant, happy, and content to the end. Her husband, two married sons and three grandchildren filled her world with joy and peace. She loved God.
I arrived early at the small town church, spoke with two pastors, friends of mine. I sat for a time prior to the start of the memorial service. The sanctuary is an all purpose room. Centre aisle had large nasty carpet stains. If there were assigned ushers they came late. I saw one pastor and then the brother of the deceased handing out memorial programs to guests. An organ and piano played together, sometimes, although at times it was a competition for speed and tune. They did not comfort me. When was the last time you heard an organ in a church. They have all but been eliminated in churches. Remember I am a retired minister. I have officiated hundreds of funerals during my career. In these surroundings on this day, my mind was struggling with concepts of church and aspects of age, what I can tolerate and what makes me uneasy.
I am sixty-six you know. Around me the seats filled with people ten, fifteen and twenty years older than me. That was dismal enough. Then some of my peers entered stoop shouldered, shuffling and convincingly post prime. I began thinking that people likely observe me that way and I was rapidly developing an urgent need to get out of there. I could have run for it, but upon returning home, Christine would ask me about the memorial and I couldn’t tell her that I went but I left before the service started.
A divine thing happened. The memorial program unfolded just as it was printed in the folder. A seven year old granddaughter quoted John 3:16 and later a pastor spoke about Psalm 23 and he alluded to John 3:16 again. The divine happening was that I learned a basic life lesson. Suddenly I realized that the good news doesn’t change. God so loved the world that He gave His Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life. The life lesson was that regardless of the predictable changes to creatures and creation and me, God’s good news is ageless. Now that is comforting.