The Pastor’s Piece – May 5, 2024

The Pastor’s Piece


May 5, 2024

Someone called the other day asking if I had time to come over and chat for a while. We worked out a time and before we hung up I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted to talk about. He hesitated for a moment and then said, “Yes, my funeral.” 

I get those kinds of calls every once in a while. People want to get their affairs in order and they figure the best person to talk to is the preacher. When I talked to the gentleman mentioned above, we had a grand old time going back over the years together. I first met him when I was 12 years old. Dad had hired the neighbor to combine our oats and this fellow was the neighbor’s hired man at the time. He came over with a tractor and auger and finagled it around to get the end of the auger into the barn where the bin for the oats was. It was a tight fit between the machine shed and the barn and it took a little creative maneuvering on his part to make it happen. He was a jokester so he teased me a little while he worked, but the last laugh was on him because everytime he came in with a load of oats, he had to climb up in the bin and shovel those dusty things around to get them to fit in there. I’m not sure why I didn’t have to do that job myself, or even dad, but he was a willing worker, and when he came down out of that bin he was covered in oats dust from head to toe. Oats dust is the worst of all farm dusts – it itches more than the others. Bean dust is a close second. 

That was 53 years ago. Since then, we’ve run into each other from time to time, but the oats encounter is one of my favorite memories of this man. Ever since that first experience, I’ve always liked him. When I went to his house a few days ago, he caught me up on the story of his life that I had missed. He had gone from being a hired hand to buying his own farm and equipment and farming on his own for many years. He told me of the ups and downs he endured, and some very specific stories, but when it was all said and done, he was blessed. Eventually he sold out and was enjoying life in retirement. He said that people didn’t come over very often so when somebody did, like me, he liked to talk. 

Visiting with him made me think of how God has orchestrated the details of my life. I don’t know why as a kid, I was the one who just happened to be there the day he showed up to help with the oats. I had five brothers who were old enough to be out there too – any one of us could have been there – but it was only me that day and I had the chance to meet this guy and I never forgot him. And apparently, he never forgot me, because after all these years, he reached out to me and I am able to give something to him – hopefully of eternal significance. 

I wonder, as probably you do too, what it’s like as one faces death. I watched my dad go through it, and over time, I’ve been there with several other people too. As their lives wind down, their focus begins to change. They look back more and more and relive the glory days of their lives. But they know they’ll be leaving this earth soon and so they’re looking ahead at the same time. It’s good to think about these things. And it’s good to have your spiritual life in order too. 

Before I left, I said to my gentleman friend, “Well, we have all your funeral arrangements taken care of, but what I’d really like is for you to know that you’re going to heaven when you die.” He kind of half laughed and half sighed at that moment. I figured it was because if someone is making funeral arrangements, they are thinking about the life hereafter and for some, that can be stressful. Then I was able to share with him what I know the Bible teaches – that in order to be saved – first must come repentance, then forgiveness and then inner cleansing by the blood of Christ. Then I told him, “you must receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior and God will make you a new person on the inside.” He listened intently and before I left I gave him something to read that has all the Bible verses written down that explain the way to eternal life. He asked me to stop by again when I have a few minutes. And you know, I think I will.

(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).