Wow, it's been a full, emotional, wonderful week for me. It began Monday with a call that Gene Fasnacht, a beloved member of PUMC who was fighting cancer, returned to the hospital. I visited Gene that afternoon. He knew his prospects for recovery were bleak. But he was fine with that. His faith gave him strength. He was confident that this was not an ending, but a beginning. Two days later I returned to the hospital. Family and friends had been called in to spend time with Gene. Believing his life was nearing its end, I asked him: "Are you afraid?" He said, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I believe the Lord will reward me for what I have done in this life." I told him he was an inspiration to so many, how he faced his illness with grace and hope. Gene died early yesterday morning. There will be a viewing Sunday night and the funeral Monday afternoon, both at Turrentine/Jackson/Morrow Funeral Home in Frisco.When I walked into Gene's hospital room on Monday, the first thing he said was: "So, the big day is coming on Saturday," referring to the Lord's Acre. He spoke of selling tickets for many years and lamented that he would miss it this year, and someone would have to take his place. "But that's what it's about," he said. "We all have to do our part." I told him he had paved the way for someone to pick up the slack. Somehow it's fitting that Gene's last days led up to Lord's Acre. Somehow it makes sense that so many of his PUMC friends and loved ones made it to the hospital to visit, and so many are working tirelessly to bring this annual celebration to us tomorrow. Many gathered during the week at the hospital; many gathered last night to raise the tent and set up; many more are setting up at this moment and throughout the day; many will gather tomorrow for food, games, auctions, and fun; many will gather for worship on Sunday; many will gather Monday to celebrate a life. Somehow all of that interconnects.
Connie Miserak, who is this year's Lord's Acre coordinator, has done of wonderful job of keeping everything in its proper context. It's not about fund raising, it's not about busy-ness, it's not about individuals. It's about God. It's a day to recognize and express gratitude for the grace and goodness of God. It's about community. It's about church.
Just before I left Gene Wednesday afternoon, I asked him about his Air Force ring. I never saw him without that ring. He said he bought it at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. He spoke of the pride he had in wearing it and serving his country. Gene was also proud of his church and his Sunday school class. Nearly every Sunday for thirteen years-- thirteen years-- he was the first on site, unlocking doors, making coffee, turning on A/C units, setting up chairs. Few people knew about it, and Gene certainly never talked about it. I still remember the standing ovation the church gave him when we recognized him for his service July 4. We'll recognize him again Monday afternoon, and on All Saints Sunday, October 31.
I am proud to have been Gene Fasnacht's pastor. I am proud to be PUMC's pastor. I am proud to pastor a church that cares for one another, always with eyes and hearts open to new people. I am proud to pastor a church with a mission and a purpose. I am proud to pastor a church that joys in nurturing and shaping children and youth. I am proud to pastor a church that honors everyone, from the oldest to the youngest. I am proud to pastor a church that sees itself as an active participant in God's larger plan. When we gather in a hospital, under a tent, around a table, in worship, or anywhere else under the banner of PUMC and the grace of Jesus Christ, we are being the church. It's been a full, emotional, wonderful week for me.