I am a great believer in home groups complementing church worship. It's where you learn together to pray, listen and love. Our group contained a curmudgeonly member, Peter, whose solid faith in Jesus and love of Scripture and theology, coupled with a strong personality and forthrightness, had a tendency to dominate! For many years he worked at Queen's College on the maintenance crew (- I mentioned him several posts ago as the decorator of Erasmus' rooms). Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year he courageously carried on living as fully as possible facing increasing pain with such Christian spirit - full of witness and love. 'I have the victory in Christ' he said.
Just before he died all the members of our group visited to pray around his hospice bed. He was wide awake and though his voice was weak he participated fully as we held hands. Everyone prayed for and with him. Several were friends of long standing whose personal prayers could not have been offered by anyone else. It was profoundly moving. His own prayer about his times being in the Lord's hands and his love for the Lord was profoundly moving too. Next day he slipped into unconsciousness and the day after, with a church friend close by, he went to glory. It was as though our group had shared in a benediction.
Yesterday, Carol and I went to his funeral. One of our group spoke about Peter's life and I learned fresh things about him and his service in the church and community. He also referred to his forthrightness and how these last months saw him mellowing. Our pastor then shared how Peter had instructed him on what to say! That everyone in the chapel needed to be challenged about God's love for them and that it is never too late to be accepted by Jesus. And then Peter had asked for a reading. I have never heard this in a funeral service! It was James 3:1-12 Taming the tongue. About the damage caused by a thoughtless tongue. At his funeral he wanted us to hear him repent about his unruly tongue in the hopes that he had apologized to all the people he had hurt. We all knew about Peter's tongue but what a way to confess and challenge us - all wrapped up in the assurance of God's forgiveness and love. It was a truly unusual goodbye. Bless you Peter for being you.