Every so often I preach at the Sunday evening worship service at Attleboro Retirement Center. I count it a privilege to help these faithful men and women, all in the last chapters of their lives, gather at the close of the Lord’s Day to offer praise, give thanks, and hear the Word proclaimed. It is never a large group, but Jane, a resident and a wonderful pianist, plays the hymns well and the singing, if not strong, is faithful. Old voices, too, make a joyful noise.
I would guess that it may have been five or six years ago that I first met Frank, and after a while he was always the worship leader when I came to preach. I think he wanted it that way, and I know I did. Frank was a Presbyterian, all his life a Presbyterian. He liked helping when the Presbyterian pastor was preaching.
Frank and I got along.
On those Sundays when I preached we might talk for ten minutes before the service and a few minutes after. The conversation was not deep. Frank had lived at Attleboro for several years, but I can’t remember how many. He had lived most of his life in New Jersey and was a widower, but I can’t remember how long ago his wife had died. Certainly he had once told me his profession before retirement, but he didn’t talk much about it.
Though Frank must have been well into his eighties, he still drove and worshiped with his Presbyterian congregation in New Jersey most Sunday mornings. He told me that if he ever had to give up driving, he’d come to LPC for sure. More than just a Presbyterian, Frank was a Christian.
Really, I hardly knew Frank, but I knew that he was a very good man. Frank and I got along, and it was my honor to know him even as little as I did.
When I preached at Attleboro last November, Frank did not assist for the first time in several years. I missed him, but wondered if he might be with family in New Jersey or if there might be some evening activity at his Presbyterian church there.
As I turned the corner onto Winchester Avenue last Sunday evening on my way to preach at Attleboro, I thought about Frank and hoped that I would see him. But Frank wasn’t there, and this time I asked about him. He had died sometime last summer or early fall. It had not been a long illness. Everybody misses him.
I miss Frank. I hardly knew him and saw him only two or three times a year when I would preach in the worship service he had led. We would talk for just a few minutes before and after the service.
Frank was a Presbyterian, all his life a Presbyterian. More than that, he was a Christian. And he was a very good man. Everybody misses him. I know I do.
Friendships like mine with Frank come along every so often. They are not measured in quantity – years together or the number of experiences shared. They are measured by an elusive quality. We get along. And then sometimes we discover that we share a common faith, seek to serve a common Lord, and they become deep though we hardly know the other.
The Confessions tell us that when we declare our faith in the communion of saints we are speaking of the fellowship that all believers in all times and all places – the invisible church – have with one another.
There are no fishin’ holes in the heaven and those who have died in Christ do not sprout angel wings. But they do become a part of that living cloud of witnesses testifying that the life of faith is worth living all the way to the end. Frank lives because the Savior he served for his long life lives. Someday before the throne of grace he and I may get to know each other better. For now, however, it is more than just a fading memory of a good and faithful servant that tells me to keep my eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The communion of saints is one of the means of grace in the Christian life.
I hardly knew ya, Frank, but I miss you.
See you all on Sunday