This morning, C went to his third funeral this week--part of being the pastor to an older congregation. He officiated the first, provided hours of pastoral care for the second, and then officiated again today. Two of the funerals were out of town, all three were for elderly people whose descendants are also members of our congregation.
One thing I love about C is that he invests himself in this work of marrying and burying and everything in between. He sits with patients in hospital rooms and worried families in ICU waiting rooms and with the grieving in their living rooms. He goes with them to the funeral home to make arrangements and he goes to their 50th anniversary parties and helps them renew their vows. He drives long hours to visit with college students at their universities, to offer them encouragement in their own setting and then he does their premarital counseling when the time comes. He listens to couples as they repair their marriages and as they end them. He talks patiently with little children when they think (or their overanxious parents think) it's time for them to give their hearts to Jesus. And he welcomes them all--truly welcomes them--at the end of the aisle when they come forward during the invitation, ready to hear what God is doing in their lives right now, even as they are speaking.
I'm aware that none of this is fashionable these days. I've heard more than one pastor express to me with disdain, "I don't do hospitals." Pastors are supposed to cast vision, to act efficiently, to exchange the mundane for high leverage opportunities, to lead strategically. All this is true (and all things which C pays attention to on a daily basis)--and yet . . . I can't help wondering if maybe C has it right. I've seen the lives changed--the generations changed--because of his patient, quiet work at deathbeds and at children's baseball games. He seems to understand that the kingdom is often not where we think it is, that the last will be first, and that people are more important that anything else. He not only understands it, he lives it and, he tells me, he loves it.