Sunday, July 26, 2009

Going back

I had the privilege of officiating at a memorial service today. Officially I am on vacation through midnight, but the deceased was a longtime and very active member of our church community, so my being there mattered. 193 people attended, more than we've had before, and though the room was sweltering, the breath of the Holy Spirit moved like a breeze among us.

Perhaps the greatest gift of this profession is being Christ for people in their most important moments. It is the priestly role: from Aaron to Jesus to each of us, standing in the breach between God and God's people is an extraordinary honor. I guess it is also an extraordinary responsibility, though I've never experienced it as a burden.

Protestants of the low church varieties like to pretend that priests are at best irrelevant, and at worst sacrilegious. But every culture at every time has had those people, or those roles, in which God was formally made present through a single human being. There is something about someone "holding the space" -- that is, actively parting the veil between the mundane and the divine-- that we need. In our times of trial or tragedy or triumph, we look for a priest, if not for a word then for a symbol of the thin line between God and the rest of us. So officiating is a privilege, for not only do we say the words and do the gestures: we are the eternal, undying, love of God, incarnate if only for an hour.

Certainly worth going back early for.

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