I was very proud of a good friend who took the responsibility to offer a eulogy at his mom’s funeral. He said that unlike his mom the rest of the family was “not very religious.” Here was the mom who came to church to light her candles and pray for her children and grandchildren. She was the one who did all the cooking at the annual family camping trips. She was the grandma who beamed with joy when she held her great grandson.
Despite the fact this family did not practice their faith, they felt it was their mother who held them together by her faith that God has to be important in our lives. In her kind and humble way, she believed in God, she prayed to God and she was with God and her children believed that in their hearts.
People easily get uncomfortable with religions. Some religions come off strong and say there is only their way to God. Some are rather bias with who and who can serve in ministry. Others have become mega-churches with hundreds of families flocking to their services because its like a Broadway production.
I prefer the following reason for coming to church as shared by a dear friend when she wrote this card to me with these words:
”Congratulations on being a “shepherd” for 35 years. I want to thank you for bringing me a message every Sunday. I feel for the first time in my adult life that I want to be a better person and I want to thank you for that. You make it real and simple. Our family has been blessed in many ways but now I have added you to our blessings.”
I have the unique privilege of helping a former closed parish resurrect themselves into a community that reaches out with the spirit of Christ’s love. My vocation has taken many turns from inner city parishes at OLPH to St. Boniface, to country communities in Caledonia and North Java, serving as chaplain for the Sisters of Mercy, patients and staff at Strong Memorial Hospital and the wonderful students and professors at Brockport College. I miss you all.
Simply put, religion may be about rules and norms, laws and regulations that bind us up in knots and make us afraid and fell rejected. The true spirit of love is found in the people who make Christ’s love visible in the everydayness of their lives.
If I have helped you to become a better person. I give God thanks for this unique vocation that continues this morning as I have been called out of town to help hundreds of people who are losing their jobs.
Immanuel prays for us as we reflect: “Turn to me and have mercy on me, show your strength in behalf of your servant, save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.” (Psalm 86:16
Lord, I pray for all my Sunshine Friends in the over 60 parishes communities that I have served to help your people become a better community. Each of you is close to my heart and I will continue to pray that God brings you comfort and peace. “Shepherd”