Yesterday afternoon I officiated at a memorial service. We were small in number but abounding in spirit. Funerals for people that live long lives tend to be that way and there’s an intimacy to them that’s hard to achieve with a packed church. Yesterday we sang hymns, read from Holy Scripture and heard remembrances. A soloist beautifully sang a requiem. We prayed together and ended the service by singing Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant Us Peace) as a round. When introducing the music I suggested that we could sing for as long as we liked. When we finished singing the canon, a conclusion that came completely naturally and without prompting, we said the commendation and proclaimed: “Alleluia! The Lord is risen… the Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!”
After the service my colleagues and family members of the deceased alike were kind of astounded. We had experienced the peace that passes all understanding. I’m teary writing this now as the emotion we all felt yesterday wells back up. And I know why.
Iv’e shared a story with many people about an experience that I had at my mother’s funeral. The service was at 11am at a convent in Cincinnati and I had gone to the chapel about an hour before that to bring the urn containing Frances’ ashes. I placed the urn and a picture of my mom on a small table near the altar rail. The organist for the service was practicing the hymns we’d later sing and I made my way to a pew, knelt down and prayed. In the midst of praying and hearing that sacred music I heard my mother’s voice. I’ll never forget it: “Jimmy, you have chosen well in what you have decided to do with your life but remember one thing: Never, ever be afraid to proclaim the resurrection to eternal life… it’s all true.”
We do a lot of “things” in the church. We strive do good works, we work on formation classes for all ages, we pray, we have lots (and lots more) meetings about this or that and we do our best to love one another in the name of God and sometimes all of us, including your clergy, fail miserably. In my fifteenth year of ordained ministry there’s never a time when I feel like the church is fulfilling its calling, or that I am, than when we proclaim the resurrection to eternal life.
Thanks be to God, and thanks, Mom.
Happy Monday, and Alleluia… the Lord is risen!