Saturday, May 18, 2013

Oops! Or What’s in a Name?

Here’s a place for a few laughs, where some pastors are sharing stories of embarrassing moments in the pastoral ministry.

It reminds me of a funeral I did. This lady was a long-time former member who had moved away and they brought her body back for burial. Her daughter and son-in-law were kind and gracious people who sat in the front row of the auditorium for the service where I preached one of my funeral sermons.

One of the first people to pass by me as they filed by the casket at the end was a member of our church, who had been in the church long enough to know everyone for multiple decades. She was the go-to person for names, identities, and history.

With an intense, and not slightly angry look on her face and sound in her voice, she leaned in and said, “I want to know who Helen is.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

She said, “You did that whole funeral for Helen. I want to know who Helen is. Her name is Sarah.”

I said, “No I didn’t.”

She said, “Yes, you did.” And she turned and stormed off (in a funeralistic, paying-last-respects-at-the-casket, stormy way).

So at the funeral dinner, I pulled the son-in-law aside and said, “Did I call your mother-in-law ‘Helen’ during the message?”

He smiled and said, “Yes.”

I said, “I am so sorry. I had no idea I was doing that.”

He laughed. “It’s okay. We thought it was pretty funny.”

I am sure he was just being gracious. I was mortified.

I am glad that the success of a funeral doesn’t depend on burying the right person. So far as I know, dear Miss Sarah is still dead and buried.

At least she hasn’t come back to haunt me.

And Helen is still dead and buried too, though at least she had the decency of actually being buried by name instead of by proxy.

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