It's been a hell of a weekend. A very fulfilling weekend, but a tiring one.
The events leading up to what this weekend became started last Sunday, when the pastor at the church I work at (who I'll call Pastor #1) got word that his wife's brother had lost his battle with cancer. The funeral was to be in Minneapolis on Thursday, so Pastor #1 and his wife left to drive up and help with arrangements on Tuesday.
Wednesday, a member of the congregation came in the office to tell us that his father-in-law, a relatively young (early 60's) and prominent member of our congregation had died very suddenly the night before of a heart attack. After getting in contact with Pastor #1, we found a pastor at another church (Pastor #2) who was able to come and be with the family. They decided to have the funeral on Saturday--Pastor #1 was scheduled to be back in town by Friday, so Pastor #2 had a preliminary meeting with the family to discuss the general shape of the funeral service. Hymns, readings, some stories to be shared during a homily, that sort of thing. That way, when Pastor #1 got back, much of the initial legwork would be done. They asked me to be the organist for the service and sing a solo, and I of course said yes to that honor.
Friday, I got a call from the president of the congregation. She said that Pastor #1 had called her to tell her that he (and his wife, AND most of the family who had been at the funeral in Minneapolis) had a bad case of stomach flu, and that he wasn't going to be in any shape to preside over the funeral the next day. And, depending on how things went, he may need me to lead worship services on Sunday. I knew that on Saturday I was going to be busy all day with the funeral, the dress rehearsal for the Sunday School Christmas program, and a dinner Sweetie and I had been invited to at a friend's house, and I also knew that chances were I wasn't going to know until Saturday if Pastor #1 would be ready to go on Sunday or not, so I spent about 4 hours on Friday writing a "just-in-case" sermon, and going through the Lutheran Book of Worship to figure out an order of service we could use if I was leading worship. I'm generally the organist, and didn't think it would be the most proper use of the liturgy to accompany myself on the chanting parts like a Lutheran Billy Joel or something.
Saturday came. The funeral was scheduled for 11, so I showed up at 9:30. Since Pastor #1 wasn't going to be there and I'm on staff, I figured I'd be the "go-to" guy for any questions, so I wanted to be there in plenty of time to assist with any last-minute stuff. Pastor #2 had met with the family again on Friday after getting her own call from the congregational president to finalize details, and they had decided to add a couple of hymns and move some other things around. So I had a chance to run through those real quick, help the Shrine Chanters warm up for their piece of special music, and show Pastor #2 around the church.
The funeral itself was an incredible witness to the power and hope we cling to as Christians. And it was huge. Our sanctuary can seat about 250 people--there were easily 450 there. We set up extra chairs in the balcony, and eventually had to seat a bunch of people in the narthex with piped-in sound. The processional hymn was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which I thought a little odd at first but as I read the words...wow. It was right. and the recessional hymn was "Thine Is the Glory," a wonderful Easter hymn. They started with Christmas and ended with Easter--there's a sermon in there somewhere.
After the funeral I cut in line to grab a quick bite to eat so I could start getting things set up for the Christmas program rehearsal, which was set to start at 2. Rehearsal went from 2 to 4, then I rushed home to change clothes, and Sweetie, Kiddo and I went to dinner at our friend's house.
We excused ourselves at about 8:45 to come home, since it was way past Kiddo's bedtime. And we really SHOULD have gone to bed after laying him down, but that night was the NCAA volleyball national championship match between Nebraska and Stanford, and there was no way either of us was going to go to bed without watching it. We had set the DVR to record it, so we watched. A match for the ages--one of those where it was really too bad either team had to lose. Nebraska won in 4 games, but the largest margin of victory for either team was 30-26. Volleyball is probably my second favorite sport to watch after college football--there's nothing quite like a well-played volleyball match. And the good guys (or in this case, the good girls) won, so it was worth it. And they played the match in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,200 in Omaha's Qwest Center, an all-time attendance record for a women's volleyball match. Good stuff.
Except my adrenaline kept me up until 1:30 in the morning, and I needed to be up by 6:30 to go to church in the morning. Sunday being a workday really cuts into Saturday night activity...turns out Pastor #1 was feeling well enough to lead worship, so my sermon was unnecessary, and I was able to stay up in the balcony and play the organ--no Lutheran Billy Joel tricks yesterday. I had some time to come home for a couple of hours afterwards before heading back to set things up for the Sunday School Christmas program, which started at 5.
The program went great! A member of the congregation had written the script--it told the Christmas story from the perspective of the animals, and was really well done. The kids did their parts well, the little kids looked appropriately cute and sang terrifically, and a bunch of parents and grandparents showed up to watch. A personal observation--I LOVE using the song "Go Tell It On The Mountain" for kids' Christmas programs, because no matter what the church is, no matter where you are, it ALWAYS sounds like this:
"GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN...OVER THE HILLS AND EVERYWHERE...GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN...THAT JESUS CHRIST IS BORN!!!!!!!
While shepherds dum dee dum dum...um silent flocks dum dum...behold la la dee la la...there um um la la liiiiiiiiiiiiight...
GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN...OVER THE HILLS AND EVERYWHERE...GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN...THAT JESUS CHRIST IS BORN!!!!!!!!"
And, you know what? The payoff when the kids get to the chorus is worth the squirming while they're struggling through the verses. Go tell it on the mountain, kids! And keep telling it when you get older, even after you learn that supposedly four-letter word: evangelism. It comes from the same Greek root as the word angel, the same angels you're singing about right now, and it's all about telling the good news!
Woo hoo!!! So that was my weekend. Busy? Yes. Full? Yes. Am I REALLY tired? Yes. Am I fulfilled?
Yes. Thanks be to God!