Celebration of Life Service
June 21, 2014
It was a couple of years ago in a downtown congregation that wasn’t quite as full as it used to be. We were in the chancel area looking out at the congregation while waiting for the worship service to begin when a dear colleague said to me, “You know, I used to get so frustrated when folks scattered themselves across the sanctuary and wouldn’t move up front – until I realized that for many of them, each Sunday is a gathering of the saints. As they sit in the same pew year after year, you can almost see their family seated with them. And if you listen closely, that’s what they say to one another: ‘Joe, I’ll always remember how you and Betty Lou and the kids sat here each week. I’ll never forget the Sunday my Jimmy pulled your Maggie’s ponytail right in the middle of the prayer. When we got home, I made sure that would never happened again.’ Or ‘Susan, I can just see your mother right there beside of you. I loved it that you all sat behind us, especially when we had a Hymn Sing. You harmonized with her so beautifully.’”
The gathering of the saints. This morning, as we gather to celebrate the lives of these, God’s servants, what is it that you will always remember about them and their sacrificial ministry among us?
Families, I can imagine that many of you come this morning with memories of days at Annual Conference, maybe even times here in Stuart Auditorium — Spirit-filled memories of where you sat – and the challenge of finding just the right seat so when the windows were open you could catch the breeze as it flowed through the room but where you’d avoid getting wet if a thunderstorm passed by; memories of great preachers and inspiring worship; vigorous and heartfelt debating about the most faithful ways to live as Christians in the world; joy-filled fellowship with friends and colleagues – the best of which probably took place outside under the trees; the reading of appointments and hearing where it was that God and the Bishop were sending you next; and for the you, PK’s, I’m sure there are joyful memories of being out there and peering through the windows at what was going on – and being thankful you didn’t have to come inside — as well as tender memories of attending this service in years’ past, knowing that one day, you would be sitting where you are today – as the Conference celebrated the life of your mom or your dad.