Monday, November 10, 2008

Defining Moments

Birth, baptism, marriage, and many other times of our lives are defining moments. Yesterday, I participated in several of these, culminating in one profound one.

At the left is my granddaughter, Grace, who was baptized yesterday. After Greek class, which ends at 5:45 Friday afternoon, we packed and started the trip to Rochester, NY for Grace's baptism. We rejoiced as we witnessed this momentous event in her life. Hearing, "Grace, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever" (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 231), was an answer to prayer. For Grace, this was a defining moment. This was the capstone of our visit and why we were here, or so we thought. That was only part of the reason as far as God was concerned however.

We found out that Grace's great-grandfather was in a hospice and was not expected to live much longer. His name is Fred and he has been like a father to me from the time I met him. I felt closer to him than my own father. After church and lunch, we went to the hospice to see the rest of the family and him. Dad (as I've always called him) was unconscious and is not expected to regain consciousness.

Though unconscious I talked to him. The rest of the family was in the lounge and just Ray, my daughter Sarah, and I remained. When I ran out of things to say, instinct kicked in and I asked Sarah to get the Gideon Bible out of the nightstand drawer and I read aloud several New Testament passages and Psalms. Repeatedly the verse from Psalms included in evening prayer kept running through my head, "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." And I just prayed as I read that God's would surround Dad with his angels and would carry him into God's presence. I had such a sense of God's presence, knowing that I was doing what God wanted me to do. I came to a greater understanding of what a day in a pastor's life can look like: baptism in the morning, sitting with family, and with the dying in the evening. And I suspect I will experience more of the latter in CPE in the summer. This was a defining moment for me--when I realized, "This is what ministry is."
We are brought into God's family by water and the Word, comforted and sustained by that same Word, nourished in the Lord's supper, and ushered into God's very presence.

It was a weekend of mixed emotions. We were thrilled to see Sarah and Grace. We hadn't seen each other since last Christmas. Seeing other family members, friends, and others was good. I would have felt awful if I didn't have the chance to say good-bye to that wonderful, good man, Fred, whom I have called "Dad" for many years. Any day I expect to hear from one of my children that their beloved grandfather has gone home to be with the Lord. After all, he is 100!


Pall picture.

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