Pastoral duties filled last weekend. On Saturday I presided at the graveside funeral for a long-term family friend in Benton Ridge, Ohio. Sunday I preached two services at Wedgewood United Methodist Church in Akron, Ohio. They were definitely good days where I felt like I was doing what God wanted me to do. But they were also long drives, emotionally charged, and tiring days.
The graveside funeral was for a good friend of my parents, Dave Hissong. He was 86 and had a long life filled with blessings. Dave and my dad have known each other since they were in grade school. The Hissongs and my parents became closer friends when they all lived in Lexington starting in the 1960’s. The three Hissong kids and Clymer kids all grew up together.
Dave and Betty Hissong have lived in Mansfield for the last 26 years after a series of jobs moved them around. In the last couple of years Dave got frailer and started having some memory issues. He passed away on May 3. The family decided to have a graveside service only at the family plot in Benton Ridge, near Findlay. Even though Dave and Betty were members of the Lexington Church of the Cross, they did not know Pastor Ben very well. They didn’t know a Benton Ridge pastor at all. So they asked me to do the service, as someone who at least knew the family and its history.
We drove to Mansfield and picked up Mom and Dad and then headed to Benton Ridge. The drive took a little over two hours from our house, so it wasn’t too bad. There was a little confusion about the time the service was supposed to start. Betty Hissong told me and the funeral director that the service was to be at 11. But she told the family that the service was supposed to be at 11:30. But we all eventually arrived at the cemetery and got the service started.
My part of the service was easy – some scriptures and prayers. But it is always comforting to the family to have someone who “knows what they are doing” presiding over things. Three of the Dave’s grandchildren shared some wonderful memories of their Papa. Then his daughter Beth shared some memories as well. The sharing time was heartfelt and beautiful with laughter and tears. Just the kind of things you want at a funeral.
After the service, the ladies at the Benton Ridge Calvary United Methodist Church provided a luncheon. My Grandma Clymer played the piano and organ at this church from the time she got married until she moved to a nursing home in Bluffton. A couple of the ladies working at the luncheon remembered her.
The family enjoyed the luncheon and spent time laughing and sharing stories. Granddaughter Faith prepared a slide show that brought lots of laughter and new stories. It was a good time for the family to be together to remember a faithful man who loved the people around him.
My pastoral duties continued the next day with preaching at Wedgewood United Methodist Church in Akron. Pastor Joe was conducting a wedding in North Carolina and had asked me to come and preach. I was excited to accept because it was Pentecost and I love talking about the Holy Spirit.
These days I generally have lots of lead time to prepare sermons, which means that I think about them more. I may only preach three or four times a year, so it improves the chances of the sermon being better than average. It also increases the amount of time I have to pray over it and stress about it.
I had a lead-in video to the sermon that I found really powerful. It is the song “Empty (Discples).” If you have never heard it or seen it, I recommend watching it at this link. That was the introduction to the sermon. We read Holy Spirit scriptures from Acts 2 and Acts 19. And I preached about how we can ask for, believe in, and claim the Holy Spirit in our lives. Then I had an altar call.
I didn’t do altar calls a lot when I was a pastor. Maybe once a year, sometimes less often. But the the Holy Spirit prodded me to be bold on this Sunday. To invite people to come forward to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. The response was gratifying as the altar rails were filled at both services. We could all see and feel the Holy Spirit moving as people came forward and rededicated their lives to God. There were tears and hugs and lots of joy.
Both services went very well and people were very responsive to the message. I have always been impressed by how open the hearts of most parishioners are to the movement of the Holy Spirit. They come every week seeking a connection with God. As a pastor, trying to help them with that connection has always been my most challenging task.
After the second worship service, Tom and I went out to lunch at Subway with several of our friends who attended the second service. It was good to have a little more time to talk to folks. We got home about 4 p.m., worn out from our travels and responsibilities.
I am thankful that I can still participate in pastoral duties. I am even more thankful that I have a choice about how often I do it. Nancy Cuckler, a Christian leader I have always admired, asked me after the first service if I didn’t miss preaching every week. I can honestly say I don’t. Preaching is one of my gifts, but it is a hard thing to do week after week. I am very happy preaching occasionally and really being able to focus on and develop one message.
I don’t have any more pastoral duties lined up, currently, on my calendar. But you never know what will come up. I try to remain open to doing whatever the Holy Spirit calls me to do.