I started last Monday expecting a normal week with 2 sermons (midweek and Sunday), chairing a leaders' meeting and sharing during Saturday gathering of secondary students. But by Tuesday, two elders pulled out of preaching and my load immediately doubled. As I can't repeat my sermons, I have to prepare 4 different sermons. On Saturday I had a full day's work and fun with the students and I was about to rest late afternoon when an elder told me that a church member's father had just passed away and I was needed to conduct the wake at night. I managed to catch about an hour's sleep before getting on my bike for a 30-min exercise around the block. By 7.30pm I was ready to go and I preached a wake sermon of about 15 mins.
I preached from Job 19, "I know that my Redeemer lives, though the skin of the flesh gets old, yet in my flesh I will see the Lord." I thought my job was done as the deceased was a member of another SIB church but the pastor could not come for one reason or another. At the end of the wake, my church member approached me and asked me to conduct the funeral. My elder who is a local who speaks Dusun and is experienced in these matters and after a short discussion we agreed that the funeral would be held at 12.30pm straight after the second service at church. So after preaching twice at church; it was jam-packed in the first service, more than 250 turned up in the one-unit shop lot and the Communion service took longer than usual and I preached for 40 mins, "Achieving Life's Full Potential".
The second sermon based on the series on Matthew's GOSPEL lasted 34 mins despite at the back of my mind I had to preach again in less than an hour during the funeral service. That was the first funeral service I conducted as pastor of my church and during my first foray into pastoral ministry it was only in the 3rd year I conducted my first funeral service. And I expect more wakes and funeral services to come as many church members are now elderly, most of whom are 2nd generation SIB members converted in their youths in the late 60s and early 70s. I returned to my office at 3pm to chair my first meeting as chairman and it went until 6.15pm when we had dinner together. It has been a church tradition for the women's folks (bless their hearts) to cook lunch before the council meeting but yesterday's lunch turned into dinner as I was called away for the funeral. It was a switch of emotions, coming from the joys of fellowshipping with students full of vigour and life and then comforting the bereaved. Even preaching on Sunday I found my emotions turned at very turn of events and pathos according to the topic. I was deadly serious when I was commenting why Jesus chose Capernaum, Galilee of the Gentiles to launch his ministry and I related that any church tradition and practices that smell of racism is anti-Gospel and anti-Christ. I drove home the point that while the 1 million or so illegal immigrants in Sabah are a a security nightmare and a drain on economic resources of the State, we cannot but reach out to them with the love of Christ and share the Gospel with them at every opportunity. I found the Lord's strength sufficient to sustain me as when I preached the 6th sermon of the week, I felt the anointing strong as I preached the funeral sermon from John 10,27 "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me, I give them eternal life and they shall not perish forevermore and no one can snatch them from my Father's hand."