A few weeks ago I conducted a funeral. On the way from the grave-site to the church for the funeral dinner I stopped at the bank. The lady in front of me was taking her time. She and the teller were having a nice talk about something. I used the time to check my messages and e-mails. I heard the teller say; “O, he’s not in a hurry. He’s on his phone.”
I smiled. In my mind I was thinking “No, I’m on the phone because you’re not in a hurry,” but I didn’t say it. Sometime after Jr. High school it began to dawn on me that it was not a good idea to say every little cute witty thing you think.
I always drive away from a funeral thinking how glad I am to be alive, how much I cherish my family, and how eager I am to help as many as I can have eternal life. When you stop a while and stand at the edge of a grave it has a way of putting life in perspective. It slows you down—helps you sort out your priorities. I don’t want to push my way through life all out-of-breath and out-of-sorts. I want to live gracefully and thoughtfully. I want to live patiently among others with whom I share my place on the earth.
“No problem,” I said, “I don’t like to interrupt a good conversation. I’m not in a big hurry.”
“Thanks,” the customer said, “I’ve been shut in for weeks recovering from surgery and I don’t have anybody to talk to. It was just nice to have a relaxed conversation again.”
Lois and I have a large family and I pastor a large church in a large town, so I stood and wondered what it must be like to have no one to talk to for weeks. We all stood and had a relaxed conversation about relaxed conversation. We don’t live in Mayberry. We live in a major suburb of the largest city in our state. It’s unusual for folk to stand around and talk like they they do at Floyd’s Barbershop.
I walked to my Jeep and drove toward the church. The family would be there and the ladies of the church would have the food hot and waiting for them. They would be watching for me to arrive so I could pray for the meal. The grieving family would then partake in the “sacrament” of the funeral dinner. Fried chicken, au gratin potatoes, salad, cake, pie, lemonade and coffee, all arranged by the faithful ladies of the church.
Running my Jeep through the gears it occurred to me that just because I don’t live in a small village anymore doesn’t mean I can’t treat people like I do. All I really aspire to be is a small-town village parson at heart. I don’t think I’ll ever improve on that. Unhurried listening. Patient shepherding. Honorable living. Hard work. Faithful prayer. Preaching that touches the hearts of children and the common man.
That night I spent my drive home praying; “God give me grace to live a graceful life. You have placed me in a large city, remind me always to have the heart of a village parson.”
April 24, 2013