‘”Well done, good and faithful servant…'” Matt. 25:23
Of all the wedding ceremonies at which I have officiated there’s one that I speak of more often than any other. I won’t say that it’s my only favorite, because many of the couples whose ceremonies I have performed read my posts and I have precious few readers already, they’re all my favorite. There that should keep me from offending anyone.
The wedding I speak of most often was for two senior adults at a church where I was a thirty-something associate. The bride-to-be was once widowed and the groom was two times a widower, so they were rather “experienced” in years. The bride was born in Russia and and as a child, along with her family, escaped Stalin’s regime just to find themselves in Nazi Germany. Shortly before the outbreak of World War Two they emigrated to the United States. I enjoyed speaking with her just to hear her accent. The groom was a southern gentlemen and they both were pillars of the church.
The bride called me one day and asked to stop by my office. When an associate pastor, who has oversight of the youth choir, receives a meeting request from a senior adult it usually isn’t for pleasantries. But Elsie wasn’t the type to complain, in fact she was rather progressive in her view of reaching young people, so I wasn’t sure what to make of the request.
In the meeting she shared with me that she had met a certain gentleman, Vern, and that they had decided to get married. That brought a grin to my face and a certain amount of relief to my countenance. I congratulated her and she continued…
“Joe, do you remember the funeral you performed for Eleanor a few months ago?”
Eleanor was another senior adult that played in the church orchestra. As I was the Associate Minister of Music Eleanor’s family requested that I speak at her funeral.
“Yes, Elsie, I enjoyed that celebration of her life very much. It was a pleasure to learn of all the things that she did for God’s Kingdom while I got to know her family.” My emotions moved from wondering what one of the youth might have done to confusion over the connection between Elsie and Vern’s pending nuptials and a funeral.
“Vell,” Elsie said, “Vern and I vould like you to officiate at our wedding.” [my futile attempt at writing an Eastern European accent]
“What, huh?” I replied eloquently. “Elsie, I’ve gotta tell you that of all the things I anticipated you saying to me today, this ain’t one of them.”
“Joe, we enjoyed Eleanor’s funeral so much that Vern and I decided that if you could make a funeral fun you could make our wedding…how do you like to say it? Off the chain…off the hook?” Yes, that is a real quote. I loved Elsie!
Of course, I said yes. And someday I’ll write a book about a thirty-something pastor giving pre-marital counseling to two engaged seventy year olds. The “bedroom” part of the counseling is worth several chapters alone. But I digress.
Frankly, it wasn’t me that made Eleanor’s funeral fun. She did that. Eleanor did it through the life that she led. I was just the one who helped plan the goodbye party here on earth. We were sad to see her go, but we also celebrated what we would miss about her. We didn’t mourn the way the world mourns and we didn’t necessarily celebrate the way the world celebrates.
We rejoiced because while we were remembering, crying and laughing and celebrating a life lived for Christ Eleanor was face to face with her Master hearing hearing him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” How can that not be fun for Eleanor and those that she left behind?
Juxtapose that with what was about to happen in the lives of Elsie and Vern. The two great allegories of Scripture overlapping each other. A child of God, a wayfarer in this dry and barren land, coming home to the Father and the Groom coming for his bride. And in a way that was completely unexpected.
That’s what I want. When I leave this world I want to hear my Master say, “Well played, son…well, played.” [paraphrase] And I want those that I leave behind to celebrate like it’s a wedding. In reality, I won’t care what happens after I’m gone because I’ll be one with my Savior, but for now that’s the way I want it.
I want my life to put the “fun” in funeral. I want my life of AWEthentic worship to lead, encourage and inspire others to worship the One that I worship…even after I’m gone.
That’s why worship.