Noel

Noel

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dismissal with Blessing


God be in your head, and in your understanding. 
God be in your eyes, and in your looking. 
God be in your mouth, and in your speaking. 
God be in your heart, and in your thinking. 
God be in your hands, and in your working. 
God be in your feet, and in your going. 
God be at your end, and at your departing. Amen.

Pastor Nate offered those words at the end of a funeral service yesterday. He called it a "dismissal with blessing."

For me, the blessing wasn't just something "pretty" to say at the end of a funeral. Because I wanted to really think about the words, I asked him to email me a copy this morning.

They could have been the "theme song" for the entire day ... for life in the church ... for life itself. What if I approached life with God in my head, eyes, mouth, heart, hands and feet? What if that was my goal for every day? Every hour? Every minute?

I think funerals - these unique celebrations of life in the midst of death - help us to think about such things. Families and friends come together to remember. And a church family embraces those whose loss cuts to the quick - whether it's the death of the matriarch of the family, as it was during yesterday's services for Phyllis - or the death of an equally important piece of a family's puzzle.

 
A funeral dinner is symbolic of sharing that love for one another. I think the dinners are among the most important services at our church. Our family has been on the receiving end a couple of times. Having a place to gather around a meal after saying goodbye to a beloved family member is a priceless gift.

Besides helping serve, my assignments for the meal yesterday were a salad and a recipe of cheesy potatoes. This time, the potato casserole was about more than stirring together hash browns, cheese, sour cream and other ingredients. This time, it really was a memorial to Phyllis, the woman whose life we would celebrate.

As I pulled out my big red mixing bowl Sunday evening, I remembered that potato casserole was often Phyllis' assignment for Stafford UMC funeral dinners, too. She - like me - was a farm wife. So she carried those potatoes down the stairs at the church in an insulated container - one that I'm sure she also used for carrying many a harvest meal to the field.

Sunday night, I'd stirred up a recipe of cheesy potatoes, probably using a recipe similar to hers. And I thought about her friendship with my late mother-in-law, another woman who made many a salad or cake or potato casserole for a funeral dinner before we - as her family - were on the receiving end after her unexpected death.

The funeral dinner is that "dismissal with blessing" in action.  At our church, Marion and Wanda have made "Methodist meatloaf" 200 times for funeral dinners. Others make cakes, salads and potato casseroles at their own homes and bring them to be shared by the grieving family. A few of us gather to serve the meal, pouring out smiles and hugs along with hot coffee.
However, just like with any "family," we can get offended by the smallest of things. We don't load the dishwasher to someone's exacting directions, and we huff and puff under our breath, miffed that our shortcomings are pointed out instead of celebrating our efforts. We bristle when our way of doing something is questioned.


But what if I took the words of the "dismissal with blessing" to heart? What if I looked at those situations through God's eyes? What if I recognized another's work as God's hands and feet at work in this world?
This season of Advent gives us a chance to again consider how Christ comes to us. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning.
Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward, anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by His first coming.

I've been using several resources for my Advent devotionals (While We Wait: Living the Questions of Advent by Mary Lou Redding, and Down to Earth: The Hopes and Fears of All the Years Are Met in Thee Tonight, by Mike Slaughter and Rachel Billups.)

But maybe this simple "dismissal with blessing" sums it up best:
 God be in your head, and in your understanding. 
God be in your eyes, and in your looking. 
God be in your mouth, and in your speaking. 
God be in your heart, and in your thinking. 
God be in your hands, and in your working. 
God be in your feet, and in your going. 
God be at your end, and at your departing. Amen. 
But I need to open the doors of my heart and mind for that little baby to truly arrive.  Because that little baby is also my Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

3 comments:

  1. So well said, Kim. Wonderful aspirations as we go about daily living. Nancy

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