He did not speak, perhaps, quite like a ‘professional’ might have. He was not polished nor ultra-smooth in his speaking delivery. He was, however, personable, real, authentic and deeply moving. People responded to his display of emotion that was appropriate to the event, and they were stirred by his clearly-held faith convictions. This was no outsider speaking to a bereaved family. This was one of them. And God was present.
Unpolished though he may have been, other family members who have not been walking closely with God, asked him if he would do their funerals as well. They had experienced something that doesn’t often happen: a relational connection with the one officiating that spoke something into their spirit that stirred a new measure of faith in them.
Too often, when someone dies or is married, it’s easy for people to default back into the mindset of looking for the ‘professional.’ And if we have the background of ‘professional minister,’ it’s easy for us to step into that role at those times. Suddenly we participate again in the divide between priest and laity and put on our priestly clothes.
One of the best things I did, many years ago, was to stop officiating such events and encourage the family members to step up so that parents marry their children or children bury their parents. Actually, a close look at ancient weddings from Old Testament through New reveals that such events were family affairs, not priestly-ordered events.
How wonderful it was to see my friend’s mother-in-law immediately turn to him, when the need arose, and ask him to officiate her husband’s service. She was drawn to him, not as a professional minister, but has someone who had something that she wanted at her husband’s funeral: a personal, real, tangible, faith-filled spiritual person who is connected to the family. By doing so, she invited the Spirit of God to move amongst that group of people beyond anything imaginable.
Re-ordering our view of weddings, funerals, and baptisms could greatly impact believers’ ability to reach into their own oikos (their extended, relational connections) that the Gospel most naturally flows through. This I have seen, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch God-at-work in it.