I’ve noticed something interesting about him when he preaches. It is as if he ceases to be my husband for that hour and it is as if there is an impenetrable glass wall between us. Perhaps it is because he is not inches from my face telling me and only me that he loves me, or perhaps something more is happening. Something changes; he changes. Today was different though. Today I watched him in a different context and he didn’t cease to be a pastor, but there was new depth to him as a pastor.
We received a call yesterday that Rosalia; a beloved elderly woman from the church had passed away. I had the blessing of visiting her with him and sharing with them in the Lord’s supper. I even spent the night in her home when I first visited him last August. It was surreal to hear that she had died because it had been a wile since we last saw her.
|Our last visit with Rosalia|
When we both got up this morning there was something more than the rain, the darkness, and the cold that was dragging us. It was the fear of knowing that this time when we would see Rosalia, she would not be in her bed, but in a box. The drive was an hour long through the gray, and gloomy Argentinian winter weather.
When we arrived we did the customary greeting to the few people that were there, then we went to “pay respects” to our friend. Rosalia had been begging for death the past few months as she was sick and tired, and ready to be with her Savior. He stood tall and led us in a small service without any emotional hinderance. I know him better. I could see that he was doing more than just reading words, he was trying to be strong.
Upon departure Rosalia’s daughter told us that we weren’t going to be able to have a service because the place where they were laying Rosalia to rest was a borrowed place until they found her a vault and it would be too small for us all to gather. With strong determination he looked at her and said “Let’s try”. When we got to the cemetery Rosalia’s daughter told us “I don’t think you will be able to do anything, it is too small, it is really cold, rainy, and people still have to travel to get home” he told her “it will be short, don’t worry, I know, I also have to travel home.” That is when it happened. He made it through the committal service proclaiming all the glory of resurrection and right there at the end after the benediction, I saw it; my pastor. His voice cracked a little and his eyes welled with tears as he said; “in the words of Rosalia; may our loving father protect you. Go in peace.” His hand at the head of the coffin, he tapped it a few times and my heart broke. I remember my father doing the same thing with my Grandmother’s coffin when she died. It is a gesture that for me is known as the “trying to be strong” gesture.
There is something that is made clear when the guard of your pastor comes down and they don’t seem so strong. You realize where that strength comes from and you begin to admire them even more realizing what a gift and a blessing from God a pastor is. Seeing him trying to be strong and then cracking just a little made me think of what it must have been like for Jesus at Lazurus’ tomb. Knowing the truth, preaching that truth, knowing how the story ends, doesn’t change the groaning and pains of death of which there is no immunity for anyone. When your pastor weeps, it is a reminder that the gospel is not just a bandaid, it is a healing balm that takes root and penetrates the souls of those whom the law has cut deep with its two edge sword. Some of the people he encounters wont give time for balm, and will only want the bandaid. When a pastor cries, it is a reminder of the gift he is for the church, because he is crying for the Church and all her members. He cries because of the member that will sing “Holy Holy Holy” from the other side of the altar this Sunday when he distributes the sacrament to those who remain. He cries because he knows the charge given to him by God to care for, correct, teach, preach, and carry the saints into eternal rest. He cries because honestly, it wouldn’t be right if he didn’t. He cries because he knows the words he proclaims over the corpse hold a powerful truth but will just be words for some that are present. He cries perhaps not out of weakness, but rather understanding.
I am so very proud of him and the pastor he is. He cares for the souls of his people as if it were a charge from God, which it is. He takes his responsibility in all seriousness and humility. I am so very proud of him for not just making his flock his “job” but his life. I am so very proud of him for the man God is making him to be, and for pointing Rosalia home. We have a gracious heavenly father who has given us a blessing in giving us pastors and men to stand in the stead and by the command of Christ. I pray we never forget that.