"What is it?" When I overheard that question being asked by a young girl, instantly an interior smile formed. I wanted to respond by bursting forth in song, "I am the bread of life," but wisely refrained. I realized it would not have been appropriate given the circumstances for, you see, I was attending a funeral. In fact, I was part of the choir for this service.
This wasn't my plan. Why, I'm not even a member of our church's choir! Oh yes, probably 35 of my 57 years, I've been a church chorister, but not now. My husband and I worship at our church's early 8 o'clock Sunday service, which does not have a choir, plus this middle-aged voice of mine isn't quite what it used to be.
So, how did I find myself sitting in the choir pews singing at a funeral service for a fellow parishioner whom I had never met?
Well, it was Tuesday and Tuesday right now means Bible study day at our church. We gathered at our usual time - 9:30, but met under unusual circumstances, for a funeral was also planned. The visitation was scheduled to be held in the library at 10 and the service was scheduled to be held in the church at 11.
We had been forewarned so we could make the needed adjustments. Our church building reminds me of a small Gothic village church. There's a warm intimacy enhanced by its stained glass windows and stone on the outside and honey rich carved wood on the inside. It's a grand place to worship.
It's just that our space is limited. Our Bible study group, about 30 ladies, is flexible as need be. We changed and rearranged ourselves quietly from our usual upstairs venue to the basement. We leaders were worried, but it worked. In fact, it worked beautifully.
Our main fear was that our usual laughing and talking might be heard upstairs and might seem disrespectful or be disturbing to the mourners. With prayers and planning, all went well; in fact, so well we'll probably visit that location again in the not so distant future.
At the conclusion of our class, as we leaders were doing our usual "tidying up," one of the choir members asked if anyone could stay and be in the choir for the funeral service. There were only two choristers available to sing, for the others couldn't get off from work. Lila and I volunteered and I am so glad we did. It was a wonderful celebration of a 91-year-old's well-lived Christian life. I wish I'd have known this brother in Christ and look forward to meeting him on the other side.
Now, finally, back to our original question, the one with which I started your letter, Pilgrim, oh so long ago. - Sorry, sometimes I do get carried away, but I thought you needed to know the background.
The question was "What is it?" The little girl on the front pew asked the adult sitting next to her. She asked this question when our minister held up the bread and blessed it in preparation for Holy Communion.
The reason her question brought an interior smile is that just an hour earlier, at the Bible study, we had learned that the word "Manna" meant the very same thing in Hebrew - "What is it?" Remember, Pilgrim, the Lord provided Manna six days a week, plus a double portion on Friday and none on the Sabbath rest day - to the Hebrews as they wandered in the desert. That might have been their initial response on that very first morning when they awakened to find this sweet while dewy-like flour scattered on the ground. "What is it?" I bet, however, after gathering it for 40 years, day in and day out, except on the Sabbath, that question was no longer asked. They knew the stuff - up close and personally. It was the bread of life, which their Lord God provided for the desert years.
And here this little girl at the funeral asked that very same question about the bread for the Holy Communion. "What is it?" I wanted to get up and to go to her and to tell her it is the "bread of life" which our Lord provided for us, for our desert years, and sing "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall not hunger." But thank the dear Lord I didn't, but who knows maybe that adult next to her whispered in her ear the correct answer.
You know, Pilgrim, questions are so very important. That's one of the ways we learn. I think of pre-schoolers and their constant "whys." I think of myself "birding" with my late husband in England. I'd never been a "birder," thus knew only a very few names of the various species. I could, however, spot them better than he, for he was little colorblind. So, I'd point out a bird and he'd tell me its name. With time, I learned some of their colors, shapes, sizes, songs, and some of their habits. Why, I could actually identify a few myself.
Yes, questions are so very important. And do you know, Pilgrim, what I believe is the most important question in the whole wide world? It's the one our Lord Jesus asked His disciples and I think asks each one of us. It is "Who do you say that I am?" That's Matthew 16:15.
I love how our Lord Jesus set up this question. First, He asks a general one. It say in Matthew 16:13 (KJV) "He asked His disciples saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? They respond, Some say that thou art John the Baptist, some Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."
Then our Lord Jesus takes that general question, fine tunes, pinpoints it to the specific - so specific - that each one of us needs to allow it to pierce our heart. It is "But whom say ye that I am?"
You know, Pilgrim, I believe that little girl from the service, if she spends quality time with the Lord, will learn and will be able to answer that "What is it?" question for herself. And if she spends quality time with the Lord, will learn and will be able to answer that all-important question for herself - too - the one that each one of us must answer for ourselves. "Who do you say that I am?"
It will not do for us to say, My mother says You are..." or "I read a book that says You are..." or "I heard a sermon that says You are..." No. Our Lord Jesus Christ wants to hear our own individual answer. He wants each one of us to know Him so intimately, so personally that we have the answer for ourselves - not another's answer.
We're not to memorize other's answers and just recite them. No, He wants our own answer that we've learned individually by being in relationship with Him. Wow! I started writing my answer, which is ever growing. Might you want to write your ow,n too? Here goes. Question: "Lucy, but who do you say I am?" Answer: (for me right now but ever growing)
You are the Christ.
You are my Lord and Savior.
You are my Redeemer.
You are my Rescuer.
You are my Rock.
You are my Friend.
You are my Beloved.
You are my joy, my delight.
You are my strength.
You are my calm.
You are my constant Companion.
You are my peace.
You are my "safe place."
You are my Guide along the Way.
You are the Way.
You are the music that makes me sing.
You are the great Composer.
You are my All in All.
Precious Pilgrim, it's time to close your today's letter. My heart's desire is may that ever-important question live with you today. Ask it. Answer it. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Our Lord Jesus Christ wants to know your individual response for He loves you personally, like no other.
The question - Jesus asks, "Who do you say I am?" The answer - ah, Pilgrim - that's where you respond. Peace.(c)2006 Precious Pilgrim Ministries