If you preach long enough you will find yourself in the middle of several big moments in the lives of brethren. I’ve only (only?) been preaching for sixteen years, but that’s almost half my life and in that time I’ve been in the middle of several big moments.
I’ve done several weddings, watched with happiness as friends and loved ones committed their lives to each other till death. I’ve been in countless hospitals to visit moms and their newborn babies, holding the children of friends I’ve loved since we were children.
I’ve baptized countless people, some of them being children of brethren who had become great friends, some being boyfriends/girlfriends, or husbands/wives of friends.
I am a meticulous planner as a preacher. I keep a highly detailed (too detailed) calendar, ensuring that every day is spent to the fullest. And I organize that calendar at the beginning of every year. When you do a wedding, have a baptism, check in on a new baby…those are the unexpected, unscheduled parts of the job that are wonderful.
When you do a funeral, those are the worst days of the job.
When you do a funeral for a twenty-five year old who died for no good reason, that’s when it gets really hard. Eric Peterson was my friend. I’d known him since he was just a little kid who loved to get under the skin of every person bigger than him. As he grew, he matured (a little) into a kind-hearted, sacrificial, polite young man. During the seven years I preached at Guy, Eric rarely missed a week and though he was only ever shy and timid when you asked him to get up and lead a prayer or preach a sermon, he never backed down. He served regularly. He served genuinely.
And now he’s gone.
Now the young man whose wedding I should have been doing some day in the future, or whose newborn baby I should have been visiting at some hospital some day in the future, now has to be eulogized. Now I have to say goodbye far sooner than I wanted to.
I never had many friends growing up, but several of us became true friends while I was at Guy. We’re all hurting right now because we lost one of our own.
I take comfort in Christ, through whom death is not the end but is simply the beginning of a peaceful rest until the returning King wakes us up (1 Thessalonians 4). Pray for Eric’s family as they’re really hurting right now. Pray for me too; the visitation will be Friday evening, the funeral will be Saturday morning, and the graveside service will follow in the afternoon. It’s not going to be a pleasant weekend for any of us.