In our small community of 10,000, there were two deaths over the weekend. One was Jordan Newman, a 24 year-old guy who died in a motocycle accident, after having just gotten the cycle the same day. The other was Martha Tucker, an 87 year-old woman who had been to the Newman’s home on Saturday, helping with things and who had a car wreck on the way home, killing her. Jordan was a member of First Baptist, while Mrs. Martha was a member of Journey.
Two deaths. Two families. Many friends.
After delivering the message at Mrs. Martha’s funeral today and helping serve lunch to the family at Journey (still meeting in the Wal-Mart shopping center here in Monticello), I arrived home exhausted but surreally content.
I served as a campus minister to collegians for 8 years at the University of Arkansas at Monticello before helping start Journey, and since I have been in ministry (almost 20 years!), I’ve never had to do a funeral. Before today, I was a funeral freshman. That’s highly unusual. I’ve spoken at gravesides and presented eulogies, but until today, I never was “the preacher.”
Meeting a family in the middle of their grief is a daunting task. It was not one that anyone, much less me, is ever truly prepared for. However, all day today I had the calm sense of God’s abiding presence and power. The family was deeply grateful, and I was truly moved.
I was exceptionally proud of the people of our church who brought food, helped with details, sang at the funeral, provided lunch and dropped by to visit family so often over the past few days. From what I understand, although their hearts are a little empty tonight, their fridge is full.
People – created by God – are not just earth-occupiers. They are time-bound gifts. I’m grateful for having known both of those who have stepped across spiritual thresholds this past weekend. May their lives continue to resound with vibrancy to those of us with ears to hear.