Putting the “Fun” Back in Funeral

I’m just kidding about the “fun” in the title.

Or perhaps not.

How many funerals have I done? Were they fun? Not one.

But were they tenderhearted, memorable, and—if not a Hollywood happy ending—a way to provide some solace for the living who eventually retreated from the freshly turned earth?

I hope so.

Several years before wearing my official ministerial robe, before a Bishop laid his hand on my head to bestow ordination, a seminary professor assigned me to Presbyterian Church in Southern California. A student pastor, I shadowed church staff to witness their work. I probably had to write a paper about my experiences. Thankfully, any paper I wrote was lost. However, decades later, I have a note from that church’s associate pastor. Near the semester’s end, he told me to wait in his office while he scribbled on a blank 3×5 card.

“Here,” Bob said (and his name was Bob), “This is what you’ll need for the funerals of folks you won’t know.”

He handed me the card.

“Trust me, Larry,” Bob continued, “you’ll do lots of funerals for people you’ve never met. Just keep this card in your Bible, and you’ll be ready for any of ‘em.” Continue reading →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Trudging Along the Way

I want to rant about Trump.

How easy that would be. Isn’t he a smidgen like the Gospels’ Pontius Pilate? Our current president seems like a two-dimensional character from another place (modern New York substituting for ancient Rome), wealthier than most, ambiguous in faith, and morally flexible. But he’s large and in charge. Thankfully, there was no known tweeting by the prefect of the Roman province of Judaea.

Why rant?

Maybe because I’ve read and seen too many reports of hurricanes swirling in these last weeks. They have been randomly destructive, liquid and violent proof of climate change (or close enough to that apocalyptic theory to unsettle a few naysayers). And yet the leader of the free world spews and sputters over a game played with an oblong ball.

How can we be so cursed (certainly not blessed) to have POTUS devote even a splintered split of a second to whining about, and swearing at, overpaid players of a child’s game? But he did. He does. People have died. Homes were destroyed. American citizens reel from the oceanic fury, thrust into chaos and ruin by a slew of hurricanes.

This president, a nattily-dressed mogul with a personal wealth that rivals Delaware’s 4.1 billion or South Dakota’s 4.5 billion annual budgets, is different than me. (And maybe you.) After all, I’ve never declared bankruptcy or insulted war heroes. I don’t have the heart of a miser or the greedy urges of the rich lusting to get richer. I don’t scheme to brand my name . . . everywhere.

My rant could go on.

And yet I think of those hurricanes. Continue reading →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Boiling Down the Commandments

In Mel Brooks’ 1981 film History of the World-Part 1, Moses strides down the mountain with three stone tablets.

“God gave us fifteen—”

Oops! Moses (played of course by Brooks) dropped one. It shattered. Hmmm?

“God gives us ten commandments.”

Charlton Heston, surely closer to Moses’ appearance than Mel Brooks, witnessed the commandments being created, word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase. A holy fire blazed and cut each rock-bound letter. How many people are more familiar with Cecille B. DeMille’s 1956 The Ten Commandments than the Bible’s top ten list? I mean, isn’t DeMille’s film really a documentary?

Long ago, at my regional United Methodist annual conference, with a thousand clergy and laity in a tense debate over the values of faith, a young pastor stood and declared that all churches should have the Ten Commandments visibly posted in the sanctuary. Every parishioner, every Sunday, would be reminded of God’s laws.

With loudspeakers amplifying his voice, he declared, “It should be exactly as the Bible said!” Continue reading →

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather