Good morning everyone,
We received word the other day that a man that I considered a friend had passed away. Now knowing that as a United Methodist pastor who is subject to the itinerant system (this means that I am appointed by the Bishop and the Administrative Cabinet and can be told when and where to move.) not being aware first hand of a person’s death until later comes as no great shock. Yet I was surprised by how much this man’s death meant to me, actually it would be more accurate to say not his death but his life. It was not like he and I hung out together or even kept in contact much after we were out of the area yet here I am filled with so much sorrow in my heart for this man. Now I also do not want to give the opinion that he and I did nothing; he and his wife were always at church gatherings, community ice cream socials, the Christmas open house at the parsonage and out and about in our community. We saw each other regularly in social settings as well as at church and church meetings.
I remember one particular conversation we had when we had just moved to Corning; sitting in the park eating ice cream and listening to music I mentioned that my great uncle had been an attorney for many years in that community. My friend said he knew him so I asked, “What sort of attorney was he?” The response made me laugh and also raised a little pride in my heart, he said, “That depends upon which side of the table you were sitting on!” Now I never did ask him which side he was on or what exactly his statement meant, we both sort of chuckled and moved on to other topics.
It just seems that there was a connection and I can say with great joy that each time we spoke it was both important on a personal level and joyful on a soulful level.
I also want to be careful here to say something really important here as well; He was not alone, in my travels and ministry I have met so many people who have and continue to touch my heart; it would be more truthful to say that, that list should say most of the people I have met. I count myself lucky and rich in the things that really matter. I suppose what I am about to say might seem a little silly or impractical but here it goes anyway. Don’t forget those who are important to you!
What I mean is; my friend’s death started me thinking about those people who have made a difference in my life and the lives of my family. It didn’t matter if the difference was physical, spiritual, or social, each one is important. From Jim who always had a joke, to Leann who seemed to be the voice of reason, to Betty who was the calming force of spiritual peace in my turbulent life and so many others with their gifts and presence helped me become more faithful, a better man, person, husband, father, son and pastor,. Each brought joy in to my heart and life helping me become more joyful; what I am trying to say is that each made a difference in me.
I also am trying to say that I need to remember them for who they are in my life and in the life of their community. It does not matter if we are separated by distance, time or even death to remember them is the point, giving thanks to God for the gift of these folks. That is one thing about a gift like this it is not mine to hoard or hide it needs to be shared becoming a part of the legacy of friendship and love. What legacy you might ask and I will explain; each of them gave me something that is precious and valuable; very rarely is it something that the world might see as valuable but it is. Each one gave me hope, courage, laughter, knowledge, support, wisdom and peace. These gifts need to be passed on and down to those that I meet and teach. Each one showed me the love of Christ in their own special and unique way.
I am going to switch gears for a moment but stay with me and I will tie this all together in a moment.
Last Saturday I attended a seminar lead by a Rabbi who touched on the topic of remembrance and how important it is to be remembered and for others to remember. According to him their eternal future in Biblical Judaism is dependent upon remembrance. This brings a whole new level of understanding to me of why genealogy within scripture is both important and listed; in Christ’s command to do this in remembrance of Him, and in the thief on the crosses request of Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Now we can discuss the issue of heaven, hell, and sheol, but that discussion is for another day and time. From this point of view remembrance is not only nice but vital to those who are both remembered and being remembered. But what is remembering is more than just memory, what if it is living the lessons which we have received and passing them on those we meet, becoming a living remembrance. Then in its own way remembering becomes the path forward and the foundation of the past at the same time.
If we look at remembrance and legacy of those in our lives shouldn’t we remember them and their impact on our lives? But more than just remembrance but gratefulness and maybe just maybe make an effort to tell them if we get the chance and not wait until that notice comes that another important friend has passed away.
I know we are all busy with the present, work, kids, activities and so many other things that occupy our day but maybe a little prayer for thanks and a walk down memory lane hand in hand with your friends will open the door to say thank you as best we can.
Lord, Thank you for the many people whose lives you have shared with me. May I not squander the gifts they have given me and may I share those gifts with those who I meet. Amen.
Grace and Peace