Being Known

I’ve heard the following comments at Funerals Past:

I didn’t know the deceased at all, but I understand he died of a heart attack.  I had a heart attack once and it was the best experience of my life.” – Protestant Pastor preaching at the funeral of a non-member

_____ never uttered a cross word to anyone.  He was a saint.” – Daughter of the deceased ignoring the fact that her father was a bully to everyone who crossed him including his own pastor.

Cindy's stole 2You get the picture.  I’ve been to funerals that erroneously lionized the dead.  I’ve been to funerals that never mentioned God.  I’ve been to funerals that were joyless and faithless.  Perhaps you have also been to these funerals.

Over the weekend I had the privilege of attending my spiritual sister Cindy Bolbach’s funeral.  Many of us will miss her for the rest of our lives.  You can read more here and here.

This was perhaps the most powerful, joyful, and faithful funeral I have ever attended and it’s because 1) it was led by people who really knew Cindy from a variety of perspectives (work, church, friendship, family) and 2) the focus was Jesus.

My own call story involves a time when – although I knew I was loved by my family and friends –  I felt totally alone in that they did not really know me.  They knew sides of me, but they didn’t know the depth of my pain, the breadth of my doubts, the width of my existential loneliness.

Then something happened.  On a dark of the soul when I had reached the pit, I felt an overwhelming and all-consuming sense that  – because of Jesus – God was the only One who truly knew me.  And I was going to be alright.  And my calling in life would to share this truth with other people who feel alone and unknown.

Christianity is the only religion in which a person is the “decisive revelation of God” in the words of Marcus Borg.  The decisive revelation for Jews is the Torah and Moses revealed it.  (He is not himself the revelation.)  The decisive revelation for Muslims is the Koran and Muhammad revealed it.  (He is not himself the revelation.)  Jesus is the Word made flesh, God in human skin.  Jesus is the revelation.

I believe that because God came to earth, that even though Jesus was a Jewish male person living 2000 years ago, I am known in a complete and holy way.  The intimacy of being known is an unspeakable treasure . . .

. . . which brings me back to Cindy.  There were things she knew about me, things I knew about her.  Through Cindy I got to know other precious friends.  It was a close and joyous friendship, and a huge part of it was about God – that ongoing conversation about what God was calling us to do and be.  We talked about it in our homes and on vacations and at bedsides and over wine and we laughed a lot.  It’s terrible to lose that friendship but who could wish her back to endure more?  I also believe that now Cindy knows fully, even as she was fully known – only by God.  So grateful.

The photograph is of Cindy Bolbach’s Moderator’s Stole and Cross taken at her funeral service on December 15, 2012. Cindy was the Moderator of the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA.


4 responses to “Being Known

  1. I know we don’t know each other well and only had the gift of that one lunch together, but I want you to know that your posts truly inspire me as a pastor, husband, dad and friend. God works through you and them to strengthen my faith and speak some profound messages to my heart and soul. Thank you Jan.
    –Andy Acton

  2. Jan, you have been in my heart/prayers all weekend…Andy, you too….in life and in death, we belong to God…

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