Whew! If you heard a big sigh coming from Canal Blvd. earlier this week, it was probably me. I am catching my breath after quite a week. In addition to the regular commitments, there was the joy of Kirstin Wee’s ordination and the promises of my own installation to serve among you. But the biggest commitment of the past week for me was two family funerals.
Both my Aunt Julie and my Uncle Pete died in March. Aunt Julie was my Dad’s oldest sister; Uncle Pete was his youngest sister’s husband. My Dad died in December of 2009, so connections with his siblings are almost like he still walks among us. Neither my aunt nor my uncle lived in New Orleans anymore, though their resting places are in south Louisiana. Their memorial services were last Thursday and Saturday. Long before I imagined that I might have any relationship with Grace Lutheran (I am happy to report that I have had a relationship with grace my whole life!), I agreed to lead my aunt’s service. We were given the honor of being the local hosts of the lunch after the service.
It was the first time that most members of my family saw each other since the beginning of COVID. Like many groups gathering these days, we had a few spats about COVID precautions. When I step back from them, I remember that they were about keeping each other safe and desiring the connections that come most easily when we can see each other’s faces and hug each other without nervousness.
I love my family, as you likely love your own. We are far from perfect, and when we get together, you can pretty much count on someone saying something awkward. Since we live all over the country, it’s easy to romanticize us into being a perfect family. It doesn’t take long for reality to sink in when we get together!
I’m struck by how much churches can be like great big families. Everyone loves each other, but some people say whatever comes into their heads while others are much more measured. Sometimes politics is a dangerous topic to discuss; sometimes the difficult subject is different ways of being church. We all have an ideal time in our heads that we remember fondly, when the church seemed most perfect and our place in it was most comfortable.
You and I are children (OK, great, great, many times great grandchildren) of the Reformation, though. We were born out of profound change. We are living in another time of profound change right now. My prayer for each of you is that you trust God in this time, and that you feel the love of God and of the community surrounding you. The work we are called to may be exhausting, but it is also life-giving.
Thanks be to God.
Grace and peace,