“And Also With You”

Earlier this week I conducted a funeral for a gentleman I had never met. The funeral home had contacted me a few days before to tell me that this man had died and according to his request in the pre-funeral planning package he had arranged, he wanted “the Lutheran Church in Ringwood” to be responsible for the service.

After a little digging, a connection was finally made–his two sons had attended Sunday school and Confirmation classes at Christ the King years ago. That was the only notable contact the congregation had with the family as no one could remember them attending the Divine Service for any regular amount of time.

This is something I have noticed more here in New Jersey (as I have spoken to other pastors and they have similar situations) than any other congregation I have served: parents are often inclined to drop off their children on the doorsteps of the church so their sons and daughters may receive some religious education.

And we do our best with the children to share with them the wonderful message of Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin and how much He loves them. Sadly, our efforts are undermined by disinterested parents who do not themselves attend Bible class or the Divine Worship service.

What does that example show their children? I can’t answer for every family but it appears to me the adults see some need for Christian education but no need to fully receive the blessings offered to them from God in their own study of His Word and attendance at worship services. It is at that point the children are somewhat confused about what the value is of coming to church since mom or dad value it so little. Therefore, the boys and girls stop attending just as quick as they can since there is no true belief in developing a full relationship with Jesus in their home.

Now, it doesn’t happen this way for every child. Some are motivated on their own to learn more about their Savior and come without parental pushing or hindrance (through apathy). My wife-to-be is one such case of what the power of the Holy Spirit can do in the hearts of young children and He can create a burning desire to learn more about God and be part of a Christian congregation. But that doesn’t happen very often, especially these days.

Back to the funeral from early this week: I met with the two sons of the deceased gentleman and it was through our conversation that I discovered the family’s ties to Christ the King. This type of funeral is very challenging for me as I have no knowledge of the person and his/her faith in the Lord. What therefore, do I speak about for my message? Well, it certainly can’t be about the one who died as I didn’t know him. So all I can speak about is Jesus and the comfort He brings to those who are grieving.

I did discover that the two sons had been trained well during their time under the spiritual care of our congregation. After bringing them up to date on the few people they did remember from when they came, I concluded our time together with the blessing, “The peace of the Lord be with you” and both brothers, in unison, responded, “And also with you.”

Ah, a sign that what they received in education from their pastor had taken root! My prayer for them was that maybe this death might be the spark needed to bring these families back to their Lord for spiritual strengthening and nurture.

The Holy Spirit can work the miracle of faith in many ways–why not in the hearts of those who have stepped away for a period of time?

And that can happen for anyone you know who may not be very close to their Heavenly Father. Pray that the Holy Spirit works in their hearts and pray that your example also gives clear testimony of your faith in Jesus. Who knows what will happen? God does!

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