I’m a pastor, so I have attended scores, if not hundreds of funerals. I have led a fair share of those and am pretty accustomed to the various protocols. I have seen grief in many and varied forms and tasted it’s bitterness on a personal level. I’m not frequently surprised by what happens in funeral services, but the funeral I attended today today surprised me with its outpouring of loving memories.
The funeral was for a lady named Jean Ann. Though I didn’t know Jean Ann well, I admired her for her faithfulness. Over several years, she committed herself to greet people entering one of our services. She was faithfully in her place, offering a shy smile, a warm word of welcome and a program to all who entered. I knew Jean Ann well enough to know that she was from a family background of owning taverns; her job was in the family business. That in itself would have been a stretch for many church folks I have known…I grew up in a setting where drinking anything harder than sweet tea was scandalous. The idea of having someone call themselves a Christian while making a living from selling intoxicating beverages certainly would have pushed the faith limits of many.
Jean Ann’s story is beautiful and powerful and it was brought to light in today’s service. Glancing around afterward, I was aware that many of the people in attendance knew her from the tavern. It’s probable that most of them were getting their eyes opened to another side of Jean Ann’s life, one which stood in stark contrast to the person she had been until just a few years ago. You see, Jean Ann didn’t just start attending church; she found Jesus! And, at church, she found a Small Group that is about as eclectic a group of people as you can imagine.
Today, I heard about quiet Jean Ann often laughing herself to tears at some of the zany things that came out in her group. I heard about how amazed she was that God could love her. I heard about the hard questions she asked in her group…questions that others needed to ask, but didn’t…questions whose answers helped her and everyone else keep growing in faith.
One of our pastors led Jean Ann’s group and officiated at today’s service. While he and other Small Group members did their best to honor Jean Ann’s memory (they succeeded!), they did something else they probably didn’t notice: they demonstrated the power of touch. Jean Ann was one of those people who desperately…DESPERATELY needed to know that she wasn’t alone. She needed physical hugs, but she also needed someone to look into her eyes and listen to her heart. Jesus often touched people and changed their lives. Jesus used a Small Group to touch Jean Ann and transform her.
All through January, we have talked about Heart Health at Stone Ridge Church. We opened the year with a discussion of how God shakes us with Tremors. Then we talked about the way we must honor Him with our Time, Talents and Tithes. This weekend, we conclude with the importance of Touch. You see, your world, your town, your neighborhood, your workplace and your school are filled with people like Jean Ann. God wants to transform you by working through you to transform them. You will never be the same!
Want to find out more? Join us for Family Worship this weekend at Stone Ridge! Kids will be in the services…can’t wait to learn from them! By the end, I'm pretty sure we will all be touched.