I was about to preach my first funeral as an official pastor. I had preached at funerals before but they were for family members so there was nothing to be nervous about. This one was different. I was a pastor now and I had never met anyone in this family. I had to bring my A game for this funeral.
Instead of bringing my A game I ended up singing a solo in public for the first time since I was 9. It was not a pretty sight. Well, at least not at the beginning.
About 10 minutes before the funeral began, the girl that the family had asked to lead a few hymns pulled me to the side.
“Look, I’m not comfortable leading hymns. If I play the piano can you lead the congregation in the singing part?”
I don’t know how to sing but I didn’t let that stop me. Who cares if you can’t sing when all you have to do is lead a bunch of church people in some old hymn like Amazing Grace? Just tell me when to start and I’ll get the first word out. The rest will take care of itself. No problem.
My problem ended up being multi-layered.
First, the congregation was made up of non-church folks. Second, we didn’t sing Amazing Grace. Instead, we sang some song about gardens that I, along the twenty or so people in the congregation that looked like they had just left a Marshall Tucker concert, had never even heard of.
This was going to be painful.
The lady started to play the piano and nodded at me when it was time to start leading the congregation. When the first word of the random hymn came out of my mouth all I heard was my voice. The small congregation looked back at me with that look you have when someone does something so embarrassing that it embarrasses you.
I knew that I had a few more verses to sing all by myself so I decided to back away from my microphone. At least then I wouldn’t be so loud. That was my third problem. I was wearing the microphone.
This was going to be long and painful.
So there I was, singing an old hymn all by myself to a small group of people and one dead person I had never met before. I felt like the bad opening act at a Molly Hatchet concert.
Somewhere around the middle of my solo I noticed another group of people in the back of the church. These folks were members of my church and were just there to prepare food for the family. I guess they just dropped in to see how their new pastor did at preaching funerals.
They were laughing at me.
But they weren’t just laughing.
They had also started singing. Singing loud. So loud that I wasn’t singing a solo anymore.
The other day I was talking to a lady who had given up on the church. The politics and drama was too much for her so she had resigned herself to staying at home and watching church on TV. I gave her several reasons why that wasn’t a good idea. What I learned the day of my first funeral solo was one of those reasons.
In our walk with Christ, we are guaranteed to find ourselves in difficult situations. Most often, it’s our brothers and sisters in the local church that God sovereignly uses to turn our feeble attempts at a solo into an ensemble.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)