I’ve been aware of the word serendipity since college, but I often have to remind myself of its meaning: “The occurrence of events by chance, in a happy or beneficial way.” Serendipitous moments are often pleasant and unexpected. Let me tell you about such a moment last month that was not just pleasant — it was downright providential!
I had been contacted by a funeral director friend who asked me to officiate a graveside service for a family with United Methodist roots. I met them on a Sunday afternoon and learned about Norman, their husband/father/grandfather/great-grandfather who made a big difference in their lives.
As we made our plans, they requested a male soloist. One of the top men on my list is Hans Grim, whom many of you know. He is a multi-talented musician and compassionate friend who works his magic in our church on a regular basis. I knew he would be perfect, and I was grateful when he said “yes.”
On a glorious morning two days later I went to the Greenwood Memorial Park. I’ve always considered it one of the beautiful treasures of our city. Under the canopy of their majestic trees, a dozen family and friends sat on folding chairs. Hans and I positioned ourselves at opposite ends of Norman’s casket, observing a safe and respectful distance. We alternated between my spoken words and Hans’ rich tenor voice. Tears turned into smiles as he presented classic hymns like How Great Thou Art, The Old Rugged Cross, and Amazing Grace.
It was during Amazing Grace that I noticed it. A very young boy named Lorenzo was sitting on the ground in front of his mother and contentedly staring at Hans! His little eyes were open wide with a happy, mesmerized expression. And by this point, Hans seemed to be almost channeling his voice and the healing lyrics through Lorenzo to everyone else: “Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.”
I watched this unfold, in awe of its unexpected nature and in gratitude for God’s gracious presence. It seemed to be such a beautifully providential act of a God who is continually reaching out to all of us. In the midst of a global pandemic AND the specific grief of a family, we were surrounded by a protective care and comfort.
Death never has the last word, for the songs of abundant and eternal life can always be heard if we listen — and watch — and open our hearts all over again to being a friend of Jesus, and helping others to know his friendship.
May you have many moments filled with serendipitous & providential blessings!
Dr. Mike Marshall
Associate Pastor of Leadership Development