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Resignation, Part 43

Dale sat in the room for a moment.  Depending on the situation, it was among the hardest times in ministry.  In the best of times, it was still difficult, but at least bearable.  This was one that could have been difficult if it hadn’t been for Bill Johnson’s tumor.  It drove him into the arms of his Lord during those final few weeks.  He had turned one hundred eighty degrees and helped keep the church together.  Now they were gathering to say farewell.

Dale stood up and walked out.  The line was beginning to dwindle as those that were coming to pay their respects to the family.  Dale was proud of the way Sharon was holding up.  He was sure that it would have been a different story if there hadn’t been such a change in Bill.  She had been there during the bad times and she was there supporting Bill during those last few days.  Dale could see her laughing with the last few folks as they made their way through.  He glanced at the few words he would be saying.  He did not recall ever hearing, much less performing, a funeral like this one.  He wondered what the reaction would be.

The room grew quiet.  The Myers sisters stood up and sung Amazing Grace.  Dale wondered how many times it was sung each year for funerals.  He knew it wouldn’t be the last time he would hear it in this type of setting.  When they were done, it was time for Dale.  He closed his eyes and said a short prayer, followed by an almost audible, “Here goes nothing.”  He took his place behind the pulpit and looked up.

“We’re here to say farewell to Bill Johnson.  I didn’t have the privilege of knowing him like many of you.  He helped bring me here to this position and I was able to visit with him several times during his last days.  I can’t really say a whole lot and he didn’t want me to.  Bill was his own man and lived life his way.  It should not surprise anyone that he would do that in death as well.  Rather than a normal funeral sermon, Bill wanted to preach it. So, if you don’t mind, look at the screens behind me as Bill Johnson leaves his last words with us.”

Dale sat back down and waited.  He wondered what Bill had said.  When Bill told him what he wanted to do, he said he would help Bill any way he could.  Bill, however, did not want anyone besides Sharon to see the results.  Dale turned his attention to the screen.

Bill Johnson appeared on the screen.  He sat in a chair, but looked like he needed to lay down.  He smiled a weak smile and began to speak.

“Good evening.  At least I assume it’s evening.  I hope my funeral isn’t one of those daytime one’s where people have a hard time getting off work.  I hope the entire church is there.  I’ve got something to say.”

“If you’re watching this, then it means that I have moved on.  Please don’t cry for me.  I’m good.  I’m better as you watch this than I am now as I record it.  It’s all good.”

“For most of my life in the church or in, well, life, I didn’t live like I should.  I wasn’t who I needed to be.  I wasn’t the husband or father I wish I had been.  I wasn’t the employee I should have been.  I wasn’t the church member you needed me to be.  My tumor changed that.”

“I realized that I had never really followed Christ.  I didn’t pray that He would heal me.  I repented and decided to follow Him these last few weeks.  I made things right with as many people as I could.  I loved my wife more than I had over the last thirty years.”

“So, don’t feel bad for me.  I’m good.  The Father’s house has many rooms.  Christ has gone there to prepare a place for me.  I’m there now if you’re listening to me.”

“There are few people I want to say something to.  Tom Jennings?  I hope you’re here.  You didn’t come see me after I got sick.  That’s ok.  I understand.  But you’re going to have to chill out.  Quit trying to run the church.  Stop giving the pastor search team a hard time.  Stand behind them.  Support them.  Their job isn’t easy.”

“Dale?  I know you’re there.  You have done an awesome job coming to see me.  Talk to the search team.  Ask them to consider you for the full-time pastor position.  We both know that you aren’t going to find a church that you will feel any better about.  Pastor our church.  Pastor my wife.  Pastor my friends.”

“Dan?  Keep doing what you’re doing.  You’re a great leader in this church.  Be the man who God has created you to be.”

“Fred McGinley?  Thank you.  Thank you for being a godly example all these years.  I know that I didn’t listen, but I still watched you.  All of the time.

“Tom and Teresa?  Just get it over with and get married.  There is no reason to put it off.  Y’all love each other.  Get it over with and get married.  Start living and loving together.”

“Last, but not least, Sharon.  Know that I love you.  I wish I had realized that I wasn’t the guy you needed for far too long.  Know that I am in a great place.”

“Finally, I love all of you watching this.  Know that I was a different guy when I left.  Hang in there.”

With that, the screen went dark.  There were no more words from the dead.

Dale stood back up and inserted himself into their lives.  He cleared his throat.  It was time to bring it to a close.

“I don’t have anything to add.  Let’s bow our heads in a word of prayer.”

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