Book Review: Confessions of a Funeral Director by Caleb Wilde

“…the room went from tears to laughter at the drop of a snot.”

It is quips like this that make Caleb Wilde’s book so real. I had purchased it almost as soon as it came out last year and I am sorry that it took me so long to read it. 

As a pastor, I too see death on a regular basis and hear all of the misleading phrases that are meant as comfort and honestly do more harm than good in the long run. As he states in the book, death is real, and grief is real. The narrative that we place around death and dying is really what shapes us as humanity. To be healthy, we must approach it from a positive narrative, however, we are more prone to approach death from a negative narrative. 

The funeral director and the pastor both have a vital role in shaping this for families of the dead, and unfortunately, not all look at death as something to embrace. The stories that are shared are real. They are situations that I have personally experienced as well. They are not unique to Parkesburg, Pennsylvania. They are the stories that we live as humans and ones that are repeated time an time again. 

Overtime, our view of death has been shaped by faulty theology and ill-conceived intentions. I agree with Wilde that death is a sacred experience and not something that we can bring closure to. It is real and our family and friends that have died surround us daily in a great cloud of witnesses. His book is a way into the conversation the breaks us open to love and learning how to just be.

The book reveals how he has found life in the midst of death. How he has grown into his family business and how he has learned to walk with families at their most vulnerable moments. It is a read that may reshape your own preconceived notions of death and the life that emerges from it. 

You can follow Caleb Wilde on his blog.

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Living into Holy Week

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Mark 14:1-15:47

We have traveled many miles and through the millennia these past five weeks to reach our Passion Narrative from Mark today. It is a narrative that has its roots in the promises of our Jewish ancestors. It is a narrative that shatters expectations and bares the brokenness for all to see. It is a narrative that invites us to become a part of the living God that was, is, and is to come.

Are you ready?

Are you ready to embrace this narrative that we have heard this morning? Are you ready to travel with it and let it become part of you for this next week? We are quick to move beyond the suffering, because we know what is going to happen on the other side of the tomb. Perhaps, that is where we fall short. We look beyond the pain that happens in our lives and want to quickly move on. We want to brush it under the rug and forget that it ever happened. We wish to not talk about it. Now, this pain and suffering could be anything that is holding us back. Anything that is holding us back from encountering Christ.

God invites us into this story so that we can be present. Not distant. We are invited to travel with a heart that has had the law written on it to remember whose we are. In that promise, we also are known deeply by a loving and compassionate God.

We have trouble finding God in the suffering and brokenness.

In this story we encounter many people, and perhaps you can find yourself in the story. Do you feed into the mob mentality, or are you bold enough to carry the cross bar in which Jesus will be crucified, like Simon of Cyrene? Have you denied Jesus as Peter has, or do you stand by with the women that Jesus has come to know throughout his ministry? Does your sense of compassion come forward as you relate to Joseph of Arimathea and his desire to treat Jesus’ body with the utmost respect and provide him with a proper burial?

Now that we are here, are we open to revealing our hearts to God? There is a love that flows from God and Jesus’ death on the cross that we cannot fully comprehend. It is not yet fully revealed to us. This is a love that fully brings the kingdom of God down to earth. A love that washes over all of creation with grace.

We would not be able to come to our Celebration on Easter Morning if it were not for the pain and the agony that we must travel through on the way to the cross. Deep within that suffering is the love that permeates all things.

While we have heard the Passion Narrative according to Mark this morning, there is so much more. There is so much more that God invites us to be a part of. We are invited into the Holiness of this week as we remember the washing of feet, breaking of bread, and traveling through a crowd that has been worked up into a mob and is eager for a crucifixion.

We are invited into our services this week on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Saturday Easter Vigil to be a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We live into Holy Week by traveling this well worn road. A road that has been laid out before us. A road that leads us to hope and an empty tomb. May we listen and be transformed through Paul’s words in Philippians as we enter into this Holy Week.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. (Philippians 2:5-7)

Sit and Be, A reflection for a Blue Christmas

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John 1:1-5, 14

There is a reason that we have a Blue Christmas Service near the longest night of the year. The day that has the least amount of sunlight, in the midst of what most people assume is a joyous time of year. Just walk into any store and they will tell you so. It is not joyous for many people. The holidays can bring a heightened sense of anxiety and also depression. The holidays seem to multiply the realizations that have hit us during the past year.

When we are not experiencing the loss, we wonder what to say to the person that is. We want to have just the right words.

What are we to say to the new father who lost his wife shortly after the birth of their first born child due to complications?

What are we to say to the woman whose fiance was struck by a car while walking on the sidewalk and ends up in the emergency room and dies in the hospital?

What are we to say in the present moment when it appears that all hope has vanished?

Just maybe, nothing needs to be said.

The presence of another person is the one thing that truly matters. To comfort as God comforts us. Just being present in the moment and providing a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or patience to just sit in the silence. To sit and be. To live in the moment with someone that is truly struggling and to witness to the pain and suffering.

Being with others can be the beginning of healing. That is the hope of this service tonight. To just be a presence in your life and offer an opportunity to sit and pray, or simply just be in the moment. In our silence, God is present. In our words of prayer, God is present. In our voices, God is present. You may not feel it in the moment and I completely understand. Because some things we experience are truly awful and it is difficult to find God in the midst of any of it.

So, maybe we do not need to celebrate. Perhaps we just need to sit and be for awhile. To sit and be comforted. God calls us into relationship for this very thing. To love and be with one another. We do not always get it right. In fact, we probably get it wrong more times then we get it right. Being present for one another and sitting in the silence can and will open up an opportunity for Christ to work in the midst of it.

God came into this very world to just be with us! To walk with us. To sit and break bread with us. To listen and pray for us. In the incarnation there is a hope that can never be banished. This hope has been with us from the very beginning with the Word, and all things came into being through it. That means you and me. That means Christ can be found in all of us. To truly embrace it, we open ourselves up to the love and grace of God that has come and walks among us.

In the bleakness of winter, let us be. Let us just sit and wait and be reminded of the hope that was, is, and will be with us in Jesus Christ.

Book Review: The Abbey by James Martin, SJ

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James Martin ventures into the world of the novel with excellence! Previously having written other books away from the fiction genre, his offering in The Abbey is great and one that can and should be shared with others on their own faith journey.

Following the story of Anne and one of her tenants, Mark, to an abbey that is nearby where Mark works. Anne’s connection with the abbey through her father is rekindled and the conversation that ensues with a couple of the monks leads to some deeper understanding in her own life. In the meantime, Mark questions what is calling in life may be.

This book would be a great resource for anyone questioning their faith. It may also help someone walk through the death of a child and what that may man in their faith life.

I look forward to the next fiction book the James Martin has to offer.