Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why did the rubber snake go to the funeral?

Because the "guest of honor" was a huge practical joker.
In the last weeks of his life, he would hide rubber snakes and fake roaches in his clothing for the hospice nurses to find. He would pretend to be asleep when company came...until you caught a little glint from his eyes when he couldn't resist peeking. A couple of weeks ago, he sent a minion to leave a rubber snake on my desk on Sunday morning, so today the snake went to the funeral.
Here's a part of my reflection, which was not the main sermon:
Oh, there are lots of things to say about C . There are endless funny stories and tales of pranks he pulled. I could tell you about all the good he did in his work, in the church, and as a good neighbor. Instead, let me start by telling you about the places I miss C most.
Sometimes in the morning, my husband and I would go to Hardee’s for breakfast, where we often saw C sitting with a bunch of other men, laughing and telling stories. I’ll miss seeing him there.
As long as he was able, every Sunday C sat by the church’s back door on Sunday mornings. He was the unofficial greeter, who took the early shift until it was someone else’s turn to be there. He told us jokes and made sure we knew what we needed to know. I’ll miss seeing him there, too.
And then there’s the sight of him sitting in “his spot” in the sanctuary. Everyone knew that was where to go to get a little laugh and hear about what was going on. I’ll miss seeing him there, too.
There are so many places where C’s absence troubles us, for all that we’ve had a little time to get used to it. Some of his friends and neighbors have had to find another ride to the store or the doctor’s office or church (or Hardee’s), because C could always be counted on for that. C ran errands for friends who couldn’t get out. He’d do anything he could if you needed him. And we’ll miss that as well—and in the missing, perhaps we might realize that it’s not the rides or the errand-running or the checking-in on folks that we miss, so much as we miss the man who did it, and what he taught us about following God.
C did lots of things for other people that don’t have much to do with Jesus, at least not at first glance. Going to Hardee’s, for example, doesn’t appear in Scripture. Yet C knew somehow that maintaining that comforting habit with his friends was important to them and to him. And what we saw in C as we watched him be himself, looking out for others, was the love of Christ, who is with us in all we do. Sitting around the breakfast table telling jokes, we saw that being with our friends and enjoying one another’s company, what we in the church call “fellowship”, helps make us who we are…and with C, that meant we might get just a little closer to Jesus, who C knew and loved, and who I have no doubt knew and loved C well.
And although I said there’s no need for me to tell you about C’s famous (or should I say infamous) sense of humor, the truth is that it’s impossible to talk about who he was without telling at least one story about his pranks. I’m going to tell you two, because I can.
Soon after I came to Ann Street, we purchased a computer stand for my office, and called on C to put it together for me. Before I went back into the office, several “little birds” warned me to look out for some little visitor in my office. I went into the office and sure enough, I found a huge plastic spider. This was C’s calling card, left for me almost three years ago.
A few weeks ago, I walked into my office to find on my desk a rubber snake. C had someone bring it in for me, one last little prank on the lady preacher. I laughed and then went by the house to tell C what I found. Of course, he pretended to be sleeping when I walked in because that was just who he was. And he pretended not to know anything about my snake…but it was all in good fun. And from C’s sense of fun and his joy in these little pranks, we can also learn something about God: that God has a sense of humor, too, that it is good for us to have a little fun, that God’s kingdom is not strict and severe but filled with laughter and joy and love for God and one another. That’s a pretty good lesson to learn from a rubber snake, and from a man like C.


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