A Weekend in the Life

My days are often unpredictable, as maybe they are in your job as well. But there are the usual, typical things that I routinely do in my ministry at First Baptist. This past weekend, though, seemed busier than most--especially for late summer.

There were hospital visits at INOVA Fairfax. Praying with and encouraging two individuals about to go into serious surgeries. Final tweaks to my sermon, of course, as Sunday is always coming!

Audrey and I celebrated with James and Vera Fleshman in a reception recognizing their recent wedding in Chicago. Later, a summer house party at the home of two more newly-weds, Gary and Molly Sanders Howe. Jesus never turned down a party invitation, as I pointed out on Sunday, and we don't miss many of them, either.

On Saturday night, there was a leisurely dinner at the home of some of our dearest friends. Such great food and conversation--we hated to leave! But we did because, yes, Sunday morning was just hours away.

I got my car washed by the cheerleaders at Hayfield High School. In addition to all of this, I managed to see a movie at Springfield Town Center and read the new novel by Richard Russo, too.

But what made the weekend unique was that it was bracketed by funerals. There was one on Thursday afternoon at Greenspring, and then another one just yesterday, on Monday.

Don Lytal's passing at age 89, though certainly sad, was expected. He had been sick for quite a while and came to this moment ready and willing "to depart and be with Christ." Roger, Carolyn, Alydia and I conducted his service and celebrated his remarkable life in public education and service to our church. In my talk, I pointed to Philippians 1:21.

"For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Only Christians can make such an audacious claim, and I tried to explain how that is.

A good crowd of mourners--mostly older people--gathered in the beautiful chapel out there to pay their last respects. They sang the hymns from memory and nodded their heads in agreement at the promises of scripture that we read.

Yesterday was different. A large group of family and friends filled the chapel at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home. In another crowded room, many others watched on closed-circuit television. They were there to mourn the death of 32 year old Trinity Edwards, a realtor and very popular barista at The Grape and Bean in Del Ray, who died from a sudden and inexplicable cardiac event. Wayne read scripture and prayed, Roger sang and led the singing as Judy Doering played.

Among the four who eulogized Trinity in the service: his young fiancé, Anne.

At this funeral, the crowd was made up primarily of 20 and 30-somethings. Most did not seem to know the hymns, but the promises of God that I spoke of in my brief message seemed fresh, maybe unimaginable--and comforting to them.

The family asked me to talk about love, as that was one of Trinity's most prominent characteristics. That, and his keen interest in everybody, and his ability to encourage each person that he met.

My text was 1 John 4:7-12. I talked about God's love, most clearly demonstrated in His sending Jesus to be our savior--the sacrifice for our sin that makes Heaven possible for us. Then, our responsibility to share that same love with others: friends, neighbors, strangers--even our enemies. We show the reality of God's presence in our lives when we do.

Words spoken at a funeral cannot explain why a young man dies unexpectedly. A pastor like me cannot talk away the pain or the loss that a spouse of six decades experiences, or a mother, sister, and fiancé of a young man who dies at such a tender age.

His absence will go through them like thread through a needle, as the poet W.S. Merwin wrote, and everything they do from now on will be stitched with its color.

Yes, we grieve--but not as those who have no hope. Because of Jesus, we knew that the sun would come up today, and it did--and that brighter days still are ahead as we trust in Him in the middle of our sadness.

After all, He saves the best for last (John 2: 10).

Hopefully the rest of this week is going to be quieter, more like what we expect from mid-August. But I can never forget even then: Sunday is still coming!
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