Preaching at the church you grew up in has some challenges. Many of the funerals I do are for people I have known my entire life. The blessing is that the funerals end up being very personal and heart-felt experiences.
The bane is . . . well . . . they’re my friends.
I recently expressed my grief for a longtime friend in an email:
There once was a boy who came to church all by himself . . .
He didn’t come from a bad family, they just didn’t attend church. But in the small town where he grew up there wasn’t much else to do. There weren’t many opportunities to spend time with his friends outside of school, so church was a social place for him. Little by little, though, he learned to enjoy it for more than just the social aspect. He began to understand the love of God for the first time.
But much of church life is built around family. Father/Son banquets were awkward and lonely. Church picnics made him feel like a third wheel. Every now and then there would be a potluck after church and people would ask him if he was going to stay. He always told them he couldn’t because he needed to be home for lunch. The truth is, the idea of coming to a potluck without food seemed rude to him. He was also pretty sure he didn’t know how to make a casserole.
So one day he approached the parents of his friend Randy and told them he would like to go to the potluck but he didn’t have anything to bring. He asked them (very politely, mind you) if they could adopt him for the day. They said, “Sure!” and when the potluck came they handed him his plate and tableware and put him in line with them.
The boy was happy, his belly was full and he never suspected that Randy’s mom didn’t know how to make a casserole either.
And, at the next potluck, Randy’s mom told him she had already adopted him!
I owe so much of my love for the church to people like Bill and Nancy Carreon, people who welcomed me into their homes and included me as part of their family when I felt very excluded. I don’t think I would have come to understand the love of God without experiencing the love they had for me.
This funeral was difficult and intensely personal. However, I can’t express enough what a great blessing it was. We had a year to prepare for this one. In that time Bill and I visited for many hours, talking and praying and encouraging. Bill shared his wishes with me. Our talks about death were honest–and sometimes even hilarious.
But a week later and I’m still feeling it. I do a good job of keeping myself composed during funerals. I feel like that’s a gift God has given me. However, it means I postpone my own grieving. In the days that followed the funeral I really felt the weight of it–physically and emotionally.
The funeral was on Thursday and Friday I spent the day doing hospital and nursing home calls. Friday night I went to bed early and slept nearly 10 hours. I think my body was trying to tell me something.
Dr. Sackett always told us, “Be known for your funerals.” I took that seriously and pour as much as I can into them.
Bill had his songs all picked out, which saved me a lot of last-minute work. In fact, I started working on a few extras before he has passed. I started working on this video the Friday before he died. A special gift from Mike Weaver made it all the more special.