Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

HANGING ON [T, 4-10-18]

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…

As I walk this morning, the darkness will be almost gone, but not quite. In that almost-light period, I stick closely to sidewalks, stay away from the streets. I know what can happen when a person and a car try to use the same part of the street.

Years ago, that happened to a ten-year-old boy in a city 50 miles from where I lived and pastored. It was after school. He saw his mother waiting for him in their car on the other side of the street from the school building. He was so glad to see her. He ran out into the street, and was hit by a car. It was going slowly, but his appearance was so sudden, the driver could not react to stop. It was not a hard hit. But it killed him.

His grandparents were nominal members of my church. I had not been pastoring there long, and they did not come to worship, so I knew them only by name and an early “get acquainted” visit I made to them, a visit that did not seem to interest them very much.

When I heard about their grandson being killed, that very evening, I went to their house. To my surprise, the boy’s parents were there. They had come because they knew how devastated his grandparents would be. And they knew how much they needed family solidarity in this time of surprising and wrenching grief.

We had never met, but they took to me immediately. They fastened on to me. They hung on to every word I spoke. They hung on to God.

They asked me to do the funeral, in the city where they lived. They thought it was wonderful. They extolled me to all their friends and family there, how helpful I was to them. Then we all went back to my town, where the grandparents brought in friends and neighbors. Once again, the boy’s parents told those folks how beautifully I had done the funeral, how wonderful it was, how wonderful I was. If I had not understood their need, it would have been embarrassing.

No one in that family ever came to worship or other church activities, the whole time I remained as pastor in that church. But they never stopped singing my praises, sending me notes on occasion to do so.

That was not the only time people treated me like that, but it’s the one I remember, as I walk, and as I look both ways before I cross the street, because neither children nor old people are very adept at dodging cars.

We don’t always need another person to represent God to us, to remind us that we are not alone, but sometimes we do, especially in times of pain and grief. As a pastor, you get to be that person often. As a Christian, you get to be that person.

Through the years, I’ve had people who were God’s representatives to me. The problem now is that they have almost all left this world. I have access to them only in memory. I am finding, though, that young people, sometimes quite young, are the representatives of God to me. I delight in their presence. Through them, I hang on.


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