"You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up." - Matthew 24:34
Years ago I was in a parishioner's kitchen an hour or so after he died. His wife was in the living room with his body. Their teenaged daughter, a church friend and I were at the kitchen table. We tried to speak comfort to one another, but we'd run out of things to say. We sat in silence. To me it felt like we were waiting. But waiting for what? The funeral home was due to take away the body. That would only make things worse.
Then the doorbell rang and a plumber stepped in. An hour earlier the hospice nurse had followed protocol and flushed all of the dead man's medications down the drain. This broke the toilet. The plumber knew none of this. He just walked into raw grief, a pastor out of words, a reeling family and the recently deceased right there in the living room. He could have run straight to the bathroom. But he didn't.
He shook my hand, looked the teenaged daughter straight in the eyes and told the grieving widow that he knew what a good man her husband was. As he made his rounds something in the room turned. For a moment the pain broke and became something else. Or at least the pain was met by a power that promised it would not last forever. Grace comes in the most unlikely guise. Christ comes when we least expect him. "Like a thief in the night." Or a plumber at a deathbed.
Dear God, you don't always show up when we expect you, but you do always arrive. Thank you for your surprising faithfulness. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.