I received word Friday evening that a member of my church passed away that evening.
I will have the privilege of speaking at his funeral. But what do I say? How do I adequately share about his life? How do I comfort those who lost their loved one? How do I express joy in the reality that he is rejoicing in Heaven, since we know that he trusted in Jesus Christ? How do I do all this while sharing the gospel, pointing to the only One who can save us from sin and secure a place for us in Heaven after this life?
This is not my first funeral. I’ve preached many funerals since becoming a pastor 5 years ago. I occasionally get calls from funeral homes to preach at funerals for those who were not actively involved in a church. And this isn’t even the first funeral I’ve preached for someone that I knew personally.
But this is perhaps the first funeral I’ve done in which I’m at a complete loss as to how to say what’s on my heart.
Ronnie was a man who always encouraged me in my pastorate. He always greeted me with a smile, and would say, “Here’s our fine pastor,” as if announcing me to all who were present, even if we were the only two around. We frequently had opportunities to talk together, rejoice together, and dream together about what God might do through our church. Even when he had a complaint, he presented it in such a way that he expressed his view and then trusted me to do what God led me to do. He wasn’t afraid of a disagreement, but he never raised a stink over it either.
I’m going to miss Ronnie. I’m going to miss his smile. I’m going to miss the way he’d say “Amen” whenever he heard me preach.
The first time I had Ronnie over to my house, he told me, “You’re my pastor.” And I responded, “Well, I am by title. But one day, I hope to have earned that title. I’ll minister to you when you’re hurting. I’ll stick by you and pray for you when you go through tough times. And I hope that one day, you’ll be able to say that I’m you’re pastor, because you know that I’ve loved you and led you to know Christ more.”
I don’t know if I ever fulfilled my hope to have done that for Ronnie. I like to think I did. But I do know that he’s done that for me. He’s helped me to know Christ more. He’s helped me to rejoice more in God, even when things in life are not going my way.
I’m going to miss that man. And I look forward to seeing him again.