Monday, November 1, 2010

Out of context

So, I have a funeral coming up at the end of the week. A dear, dear saint of our church died this morning. He was a man that I was warned might die within my first few months of being here. Almost 3 years later it has finally happened. He rallied back for a little while and was actually giving a cancer-free bill of health in February. Hospice began in early September, I believe, and he joined the saints in the light today, All Saints Day 2010.

I went to be with his widow and some of their grown children within an hour of his last breath. She had called me earlier this morning with the news that death would probably come by the end of the week. It told her I would be by this afternoon. The organist and I made plans to go together after a lunch date she had planned. The call came less than 2 hours later that he had died, in the presence of his wife, his son, and a hospice chaplain, while listening to a record of his wife singing hymns recorded easily 40 years ago. It was a beautiful scene and the "It's all about you" gremlins in my head keep trying to make me feel guilty and a little bit jealous about not being there, but I'm fighting them with every ounce of pastoral confidence that I have.

And now the dilemma - - Mrs. J shared with me when I got there the plans she and Mr. J had been working on in the last few days for his funeral service. She told me the Scripture they wanted included - - "The conversation between Jesus and Thomas about not knowing the way to go and the way, truth, and life, stuff and 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'" I jotted it all down dutifully. Now that I'm back at the church and processing what I experienced and what she said I am stuck with a bit of a problem.

"Well done good and faithful servant"? Great sound bite, but not so great in context, or at least not so great for a funeral in context. It doesn't start that bad, but to read the whole parable ending with the weeping and gnashing of teeth, that's just more than I want to get into at a funeral. At the same time it would make me feel really uncomfortable to read just what happens to the first two servants and totally chop the parable to ignore the unpleasantness with the third.

So, what to do? I have pretty much already decided to base my message on the John 14 stuff. I have one sermon already that works with the first few verses, but I already have ideas and a general outline for a new one based directly on the Thomas part. The sermon fairy Spirit just left that one for me on the tips of my fingers a little bit ago. I'm still not sure, though, what to do about even reading the Matthew 25 part.

Any suggestions? Pretty please?

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