Since I had preached two weekends in a row, it felt odd not to preach this weekend, a little gulp in the rhythm, a time to stretch my legs and think about something else for a little while. Then I remembered that I actually preached at a funeral service on Friday and for a wedding on Saturday. So you can't really say that I was off.
For some reason I have been reminiscing lately, thinking back on my ministry and my life. There's something about a funeral and a wedding that does that, especially these.
The Friday funeral was for a man I didn't really know. He was the son of members of my congregation who were also good friends of my parents. He had lived far away for a long time, and I had only met him, briefly, for a long time. Long long ago, back in the glory days of this congregation and in the glory days of mainline churches in general, he had been active in youth and singing groups. It was very sudden this winter when he became ill and died.
I didn't really know him, but I knew his parents. I used to visit them in their apartment and give them communion. I would find out how they were doing and they would ask about my parents, especially my father. When she was dying, I drove my mother out to see her in hospice care one time. I remember how at ease she was with her dying. When she got into hospice, she said, 'Now I can have communion every day!" It was a foretaste of the feast to come.
But I didn't really know their youngest son. He had grown up and moved away. He lived out in the Southwest, where they ended up spending their winters. I learned some things about him from his father, from his sister, and from old old friends who had come to the funeral. Their words were about him: how funny he was, how smart he was, what a good friend he was. And their words went back to the glory days of this congregation, back when congregations were bursting at the seams with World War II veterans and their children. I preached about the promises of God and how nothing can separate us from the love of God, even though we wander. Someone sang a hymn which begins, "When at night I go to sleep fourteen angels watch do keep."
After the funeral on Friday afternoon, I rode back to the church in the car with his father and his sister. Hie father asked us to avoid the highway and travel the scenic route, along parkways and around some of the lakes of our city. It seemed fitting, somehow.
Then, I returned to the church for a wedding rehearsal. I have known the man getting married since he was a little boy. He and his parents joined our congregation when I was a teenager. They directed the choir and played the organ while he and his brothers were growing up. Their family seems like family to me.
His mother grew up in this congregation. She was away for a long time, and now she returned. I had her father's funeral here, several years ago. She has returned and her son decided he wanted to have his wedding here. The family of musicians provided all of the music. I preached, talking about what it means to have a good foundation. I remembered how one of my uncles built a house, and how they lived in their basement, with carpet-squared carpeting, for a long time. It was a good foundation, but it was messy, and it took time.
So, I didn't preach this weekend, on Sunday anyway.
And here's what I am thinking: the foundation is love.
It takes time, and it's messy.
And it doesn't solve everything.
Not even close.
But, riding in the car along the lakes, on the way home, I believed that it was true, anyway:
Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Nothing can separate us.
In the end.
The foundation is love.