March 29th, 2010

It’s been over two years since I received a humbling phone call.  A pastor I have respected for years, Dr. Mel Palmer, asked if I would be willing to preach his funeral service.  Mel has been battling cancer for several years, and it seemed at the time the cancer had the upper hand.

Fortunately, Mel’s health has improved since that time.  His request became fresh again, however, when I recently read a book by Mitch Albom, titled Have a Little Faith.  Clarissa Starnes loaned me the book when she was part of our Christianity 101 Sunday School class.  I had laid it aside (an unfortunate act that happens to most of the books I am loaned, at least for a while, because I can’t read everything I want to read!), but picked it up a few weeks ago.

Albom’s book tells the story of his Jewish rabbi, “the Reb,” who asked him to give the eulogy at his funeral.  Mitch was humbled (I know the feeling) to be asked for such a favor by one whom he deeply admired. 

At the time Mitch was preparing for the Reb’s passing and for his eventual eulogy, he was living in Detroit.  There he happened to meet a black Christian minister, Henry Covington, an ex-con, leading a struggling ministry called “I Am My Brother’s Keeper.”  The urban ministry struggles to keep raindrops and cold air out of the sanctuary as it meets the streets with hope through the message of Jesus Christ.

What Albom does in this book is to struggle with issues of life, death, faith, humility, and service in action through two true stories, intertwined.  Faith gives meaning to life, and hope beyond its ending on this life.

While I identify more with the faith of Henry Covington than Rabbi Albert Lewis, I am humbled to ponder again the responsibility I have as a pastor to point people to the unknown, the unseen, the not-yet-experienced to make sense of these three-score years (or a little more) we sojourn here below.

It is my great honor and privilege – and more so on this week than any other during the year – to proclaim as the ultimate foundation for hope and meaning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  “We face death all day long,” the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:36.  A downward spiral toward our end is inevitable.  But in Jesus Christ that end is only a new beginning.

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