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Broken Record - Monday Musing, September 27, 2021

Dear Church,

Broken record – a term used when someone continually repeats the same statement with little variation, if any. The phrase comes from the slightly inaccurate term involving polyvinyl record albums, where such a “broken” record would skip back and repeat what was just played. The term is somewhat inaccurate since usually such skippage was caused by dust on the disc. Those of a certain age know what I’m talking about. No doubt, this concept of record skipping is unfathomable with today’s generation using iTunes and other cloud-based music.

I have officiated a fair number of graveside and memorial services since I arrived in Orleans, two last week alone. It is not unusual for multiple deaths to occur following a settled pastor’s arrival. Colleagues in ministry quip that people wait for the new minister to arrive so they can die! I know this sounds grim, and certainly a slight on the interim minister because they are just as much a minister as the newly called pastor! But parishioners know the interim won’t be around long; it is comforting to know that your memorial service will be officiated by someone who will be here long-term. From a pastor’s perspective, it would be nice if we could get the chance to know one another just a little bit longer before officiating your funeral, but oftentimes we don’t have a choice.

I am writing these words following my most recent memorial service. As I looked out into the congregation, I saw familiar faces as many of you have attended several services I have officiated – which is what has me thinking about the term broken record. The order of worship for a memorial service mirrors our Sunday worship, with little variation: words of grace and greeting and the opening prayer are pretty much the same; we always read Psalm 23, sometimes the same scripture passages or reference to particular ones all sound alike, the (limited) options for hymns are similar, and the prayer of thanksgiving and prayer of commendation have hardly any variation. Except for the individualized pastoral message, you might think I sound like a broken record!

Having attended a fair number of graveside and memorial services myself over the years, I have felt comforted that the final prayers of the church are somewhat the same. Oh, many of my colleagues use their own similar variations of prayers, some that were passed on to them or have particular meaning, but all of us find familiarity comforting. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). These words are heard differently when we grieve.

The pastoral role is to provide comfort to the grieving family, to bring God’s word of grace and hope. The power of prayer is found in the spoken word. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

Yes, certain prayers that comfort our grief and loss should be repeated, even if they sound like a broken record. See you in church!




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