yesterday, i went to my pastor's funeral.
the church was coldly austere and beautiful; the service emotional and wrenching. somberly dressed, clearly fighting tears, members of the church streamed in from all over the city, forming a line that rivaled one on Easter Sunday. a letter from the Mayor's office was read.
i held it together through Barber's 'Adagio', through the opening prayers but then came Psalm 121, which has always been a favorite of mine.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.
it made me think of her evident dedication to her calling, the joy and discipline she showed but also the brave perseverance she showed during her illness. it was almost too much to think about.
but there were moments of joy, too. laughter through the eulogy, the comfort of seeing a packed congregation rise as one to sing the doxology, to recite the Apostles Creed, all of us praying together and reciting the 23rd Psalm (another of my favorites.)
and finally, after the wrenching recessional as her casket was slowly wheeled down the long, straight center aisle led by a bagpiper and followed by the pastoral staff and her surviving family, the Tower Brass doing a boozy, ragtime arrangement of 'Just A Closer Walk With Thee' that made us all erupt in bursts of giggles and clapping. it was her final joke.
the lesson here? in the shadow of death and sadness there is joy and grace. this is the gift that Christ has given us and for which, despite my personal failings and struggles, i am eternally grateful.