What really matters
I hope an eyebrow raises with what I’m about to say. Maybe professional clergy should not be paid. Sure, we have to eat, and yes, we need a new vacuum cleaner every decade or so (I say this because mine just died), but the gifts we receive when we are with you are just that—gifts. You give us so much when we get to see into your wobbly and wonderful worlds. You grace us with your tears and your triumphs, your happiest moments and your hardest hits.
That last phrase is particularly true. You do grace us with your hardest hits, particularly when we gather in your home or our church offices to plan the hardest event, a funeral or memorial service.
I was sitting at the table in a family’s home recently. The one we had gathered to remember had recently died after a longstanding illness. At 75, he was a loving husband and gracious brother to six siblings. He was a number one uncle and a trophy grandfather because the stories I heard repeated this unquestionable fact: this loved one loved his family, particularly his children and his grandchildren.
I heard this at the table, too. While his mom loved all of her kids, of course, the siblings shared that this mother and son enjoyed one precious bond.
The stories the family opened in front of me that afternoon were real, not sugarcoated. This family didn’t elevate their loved one; they just spoke from what they knew, which is love.
As a fulltime pastor, I literally have a front row seat to these events, these moments. Some may think this “job” is exhausting—and honestly the hours are daunting—but the blessings outweigh the late hours into the night, and the wee hours into the morning, especially when mega seasons like Easter approach.
Speaking of Easter, Jesus took the sting of death from us when He died on the cross for our sins. He rose three days later to sit at the side of His Father in heaven where He welcomes—no, embraces—those who call on Him by name. You can google Easter’s meaning and get that correct answer. But does Google mention the families I sit with who do grieve, yes, but also know this death is only the beginning to eternal life?
I’m getting to this. What really matters is love. And love? Well, love is grown and known through relationships. And this family I sat with, like every family I sit with, is all about relationships.
Notice I didn’t say perfect relationships. No family has perfection, but all families can have peace when, guided by scripture, each of us looks outside (and within) ourselves to a God who loves us so much that He models the importance of relationships by His three-in-one nature: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Yes, God was in relationship with God before we were created. Interestingly, when we were created, God started with man. God then decided that man needed a helper (Genesis 2:18). Did God goof? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Instead, I think this verse gives us a window to see what really matters to God, which is the importance of relationships.
The Bible is filled with all kinds of relationships. Some of these relationships are healthy. Many become healthy. All of them are told, however, through the agony of real life, sin, and choice.
Remember the family I mention here as I conclude what may be your first Easter message this year. Enjoy your choice. Choose love. How? Look at—and look into—your relationships not alone, but with God who is closer than most of us have yet to imagine.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on March 20, 2019.