Today was a 'funeral day' - got up and said my Office at about 03:50 because I knew it was going to be an long, interesting and potentially challenging day but in the end there was none of the possible issues and bumps in the road - just joy!
Service sorted I arrived at the venue with just over an hour to spare to ensure that all was going to plan; and it was. Even had time for a brew :-) There were a significant number of mourners (always a blessing for the bereaved) and the service flowed just as it should. Those who spoke brought an added mark of respect and their exhibition of love and courage provided, as ever, an amazing epitaph to the person whose life we were celebrating.
The timing was such that we were at the crem' with (once more) time to spare and the time spent afterwards with the family was varied and covering the life of the deceased, the family, and an apologetic encounter - what more can you ask for?
Then onto a funeral visit and another chance to meet the deceased through the eyes, and lives, of the bereaved: A privileged position indeed. Conversation engaged, stories unfolded, and love made evident - this is the dream made real for the funeral enthusiast (and shouldn't all clergy wear that badge). It was my idea of heaven: No fighting to draw out stories and no rancour or bitterness, just people allowing the deceased to pop in and tell their life story.
Then back home to find that I'd been out of the house for just over seven and a half hours - and there was still work to be done in writing up the notes and putting the arrangements together, editing some of the music for the next service and the like. A day of different pastoral encounter - and it's easy to forget that with the pressing needs of the mentally ill, the confused, concerned and contained all sitting at the doorstep waiting to be dealt with; and yet as much as I seek to stretch time (think it drives those around me a bit mad to be honest) with fourteen hours on the time card I clocked off and unwound a bit.
Well unwind is perhaps the wrong word as it took me into a football game where my side were two goals down at half time - an opportunity to behave as a man of god rather than the fanatical supporter who would have necessitated the kids being ushered elsewhere not all that many years ago. By midnight though it was Mariokart with the family - yep, as usual managed to come in at the back of the pack - but it was fun and I'm getting the hang of it at last - just as it goes back to university with our son!
It's tough being a gobby, passionate, full on type - the opportunity to conceal Jesus behind the energy and the ideas and the enthusiasm is always in danger of being taken up such that the still small voice is ignored. Engaging in the wind of passion and the earthquakes of dissent is so simple - it's what we do in the flesh life of ours - but to stop and to reflect and pray and assess and call the boss with a sitrep and just 'wait out' until the Chinnook of Grace is heard in the distance and the realisation that salvation is at hand - that's my gradual experience and my fervent (yet gentle) prayer.
Lord help me to not be or do in my own strength but yours. To stop and pray when I'd rather run and fight, to consider and reach out in love rather than fix bayonets and address the wrongs such that I end up sinning too. Make me a man of God rather than a child of the company I work for.
And the bereaved?
May they be blessed by the ministry I bring and may you be the blessing they encounter, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.