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Of Cemeteries, Saints & Sandwiches

Of Cemeteries, Saints & Sandwiches

If everyone did the exact same thing the world would probably cease to function. We all serve society in some manner which will be beneficial.

Let me tell you about my friend, Tom. “Pops,” as I call him, is the main drummer at our church. He is married, the father of three, grandfather of one and one of the most generous people you’ll ever meet. The thing Tom gives of most is his time, which is very precious considering his line of work.

Tom works for a mortuary service. He might get a call almost anytime, day or night, to go meet with a family, oversee a gravesite or pick up a body. After our worship team rehearsal last night, we had a small birthday celebration for one of the ladies on the team. Between bites of double chocolate cake, Tom, myself and couple of friends were discussing jobs. Tom said, “You know, now, more than ever, I see my job as a ministry.”

With Tom having prepared and assist with several funerals at our church, I could see that very clearly. “I’m glad someone enjoys it,” I said with a soft smile.

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “I mean it’s not easy, and you struggle some days, but it’s a great way to minister to people.” Tom is a great example of the type of compassion the world needs.

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus, the Bible says that Jesus, looking at him, loved him. “Loved him” is translated “compassion” in other translations. This term compassion is not a light, flowery word. Jesus was moved and gripped in His gut, the very soul of His being, that this ruler of the people wanted the kingdom of God.

Mother Teresa was so moved with compassion for the poor and destitute that she relinquished her nun’s habit and took the garb of the people of the street. To be touched by the heart of God is to be changed. It is to lay aside all service to self-righteousness and follow the example of the Servant of servants. Jesus could have said, “I’m God. Serve Me!” However the kingdom of God is built on love: love of God, fellow man, creation.

To seek a vocation is, in reality, a service to society. When I was budget-cut out of my first teaching job I got a job about a month later at a delicatessen. When I went in for my interview the owner and manager looked at me and said I was overqualified (most of the employees were high school and college students or non-college graduates). I replied, “Its work.” I didn’t expect to be there long. I figured it was short-term until I found a higher paying job. Besides, they told me there was a fair employee turnover rate.

After being there about three months I realized there was more to be done there than make sandwiches, bus tables and brew espresso. There were employees from all walks of life, dealing with all sorts of problems. There were customers, both regulars and one-timers that needed a kind word with a side order of smile.

Twenty-five and a half months later I left the deli. In my time there I saw the entire range of human emotions played out on both sides of the counter. The things that stuck with me were the friendships and love. We had an unofficial deli saying that went something like this: We may get emotional and push to the point of ticking each other off, especially in the heat of a busy lunch; but, when the dust settles, and the clean-up begins, we’re family.

The amazing thing was in the middle of working there and processing my own feelings of fear and inadequacy, the gut-gripping, loving-kindness compassion of God manifested itself in that little one hundred-plus year old street-front deli on the south end of Main Street. And the people who graced the thresholds of that deli, employees and customers alike, were embraced by the service of the compassion of God.

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