In larger cities people scan obituaries to see if anyone they know has passed away. In a small town like ours, we know almost instantly by word of mouth who has left us and we wait to see how the person’s life gets written up in the next day’s paper. This was the case regarding the man who put new flooring in our foyer and added a rail to the front porch after we moved here. He fell to his death while roofing a large century-old house just a couple of blocks away. Before the day ended, some men in the community gathered and finished the new roof he had begun that morning. The line at the funeral home stretched out the door and someone remarked that in a small town like ours anything that happens affects everybody. There was a lot of truth in those words.
The man who died had more than a mustard seed of faith. He owned a construction business he had built through hard work over the past twenty-five years. Whenever something needed to be fixed at church, he did it quickly, quietly and refused payment. In fact, the week of his death he had just finished adding shelves to the closet where the funeral luncheon supplies were stored. No one could have imagined his funeral luncheon would be the next one served. When death passes so close by, the problems we thought we had suddenly shrink. We remember what a gift it is to be able to do the simplest things from walking and laughing to folding laundry and cooking breakfast.
In times like these, we reach for prayer, almost by reflex. However, scripture encourages us to “pray always,” rather than just in times of trouble. We can form a habit of prayer from greeting the morning with praise and ending the day with gratitude. Brother Lawrence, a 17th century lay brother in a monastery in France spent his life scrubbing pots and pans in the kitchen and repairing sandals. While he worked, he practiced the presence of God in all that he did so that his daily life became his prayer. We can be quite comfortable praying while we do whatever else must be done. When we live in prayerful gratitude, we think less and less about ourselves and more and more about what others need.
A mustard seed of faith, combined with deep gratitude, prayer and humility is a powerful recipe for a life that makes a difference. Our friend who lost his footing on the rooftop lived a life that was grounded in the only way that really counts. Still, we think he may have been surprised to find he had always been just a step away from eternity.