A few months ago I was looking through the list of funerals I’ve facilitated in my role as a pastor and noticed the disproportionate amount of people I’ve buried who were aged between 50–55. A month ago I added to that list when my brother died from what we often see written in obituaries: after a battle with cancer. He was 54. I led his funeral. It sucked having to do that.
We’ve had a few tragedies in our family over the years, deaths in car accidents, sudden deaths, the death of friends, and with them the death of dreams. But, I’ve never lost a brother before and I’ve never seen my parents have to go through the heartache of losing a son before. It sucks.
When my brother died I clicked into my task mode; I’m a pastor and I’ve done this many times. Arranging everything to help my family have the time to grieve during the days before the funeral was my focus. Leading the funeral, making sure the lunch was sorted, liaising with everyone about everything, and now being executor of his estate. I’m an administrator too, so I like things to be organised and sorted. There’s a lot to do. The administration feels a little cold, though; it sucks.
I lead a full schedule and work to capacity most of the time. I love the things I do and the privilege of my diverse life is a gift from God. Most of the time. Throw into the mix the death of a brother though, and sometimes I feel like I could tip over the edge. That feeling sucks.
When I entered my ministry career 16 years ago I started to experience something I hadn’t really experienced before in a corporate banking career — emotional tiredness. The constant work of helping people, guiding people in big issues, preaching to people, and all the other people stuff took me a little by surprise. Recently, I’ve taken that to a whole new level and for the first time that I can remember I’ve actually had to put some things aside in my mind and not think about them — it just seemed too much was going on all at once. I felt like I’d let my own capacity down (I still do). That sucked.
There’s a big but in this season though. It’s too big to ignore and I know without this but, well, I don’t know where I’d be.
The big but is that while lots of things suck (this is true generally in life), God is present with me through his children. Our family has experienced this in tangible ways from those around us.
Hope of the world
Life can suck, but the local church (the Body of Christ) is still the hope of the world.
When my brother died it was the community of God’s people that rallied around our family. Their presence, their presents, their words and emails and texts and Facebook messages and WhatsApp notes, and, yes, even some cards in the old-fashioned mailbox, made a suck situation tolerable.
I don’t know how people do loss and grief without God. While this has been, and is, a painful event, the ever-present comfort of the Holy Spirit and the physical comfort of God through our brothers and sisters in Christ makes the journey a lot less uncomfortable. How anyone can do this journey alone, I don’t know.
One of things I regularly preach on, so much so I wonder if people think I’m a scratched record, is the subject of the ‘one-another’s’ that the New Testament writers just go on and on about. It’s one of the biggest challenges of the consumer-driven church of our day. Hanging in there when the ‘worship’ doesn’t do it for me, or when people annoy me is perhaps the greatest challenge for demonstrating the overriding bond of Christ that keeps the church together.
That people can change church when it doesn’t suit them is something I can’t quite get my head around. The Bible doesn’t seem to support it (unless I’ve missed something?) and my theological understanding of the Body of Christ doesn’t seem to include consumer-driven choices. In my understanding, the one-another’s surpass consumerism.
I’m pleased that a bunch of people who surround us in our time of need have lived out the one-another’s; they’ve stuck around through the good and bad because of a commitment to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God has come near, above their own kingdoms.
May we rediscover the value of the one-another’s, and may the local church be the expression of the commitment to community that the world desperately needs to see, that sets the church apart from the culture of consumerism that so easily encapsulates us.
Grant Harris is the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, a church that was planted 65-years ago and comprises people of all generations seeking to reach a community that consists of people of all generations. He likes change and revolutions and in his spare times reads about change and revolutions. The tagline of Windsor Park is ‘doing life and faith, together.’ Grant can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.