When you're young you don't fully understand the gift of showing up. (Or at least I didn't.) We're invited to a wedding, or a graduation party, or we know someone who has lost a person they love, and we don't think it is that big of a deal if we show up -or not. They'll barely notice you stuck there in the middle of the crowd, right?
As our boys graduated from high school I noticed what it meant to us when people showed up. People drove a couple of hours, people carved out a good part of a day, and they showed up when Bryan, Nathan and Michael graduated. We noticed. It meant something. Somewhere down deep inside we felt the reality of friendship's blessing. We also, on the other hand, noticed good friends who didn't show up. Most of them had good reasons but some just hadn't learned that love means showing up.
I thought of this today as I drove north to Lebanon, Indiana for the funeral service of a colleague. David Patrick was a 46 year old United Methodist pastor who did great work mentoring young pastors and served on the Board of Ordained Ministry with me. I didn't know him well. He had served most of his ministry in the "old" South Indiana Conference, and I have always hovered around the Michigan state line. Until we came to Bloomington I had never served a congregation south of #30! So we didn't know one another all that well but David was a brother.
When you are a United Methodist pastor you are a part of something we call "the connection." As I write that it almost sounds mysterious. Or threatening (like the word is a synonym for organized crime!). Whether you like it or not, whether your theology or ministry style or political ideas match those of the pastor serving down the road in a nearby United Methodist Church, you not only belong to Christ but you belong to one another.
So I drove north on this beautiful morning with the top on the Miata down, the music of the Rolling Stones and then Joshua Bell playing on the stereo, with a cup of coffee in my hand. I sat in the back of a packed sanctuary. The family will never know I was there. I believe David noticed. I believe that love means showing up if there is anyway to do that.
Paul, in Romans 12, says if we are in Christ we are a part of one body. The apostle says love is to be genuine (not faked...not a going-through-the-motions type of love). He summarizes the commandments and then finally says love does no wrong to a neighbor (13:10) and that, in fact, love is "fulfilling of the law." In verse 15 he encourages us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
Love means showing up (if there is anyway to do that).