A few years ago a nine year old boy with a terminal disease was still able to play baseball with a Baptist Little League team; and to the discomfort of his Catholic grandparents, the Baptist minister enrolled him with his flock.
When the little boy died the minister conducted the funeral service at the cemetery chapel, while I sat in the lobby with three kids from St. Paul’s in their server outfits. We heard the minister pleading over and over for the people at the funeral to accept Jesus as their personal savior.
I couldn’t object to him taking that line. After all, in today’s first reading Joshua was asking something similar of the Israelites. He was asking them to make up their minds as to whether they would serve the Lord or some other God. My slight objection to the minister’s message was that his sermon was just the same thing over and over: the people had to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. Right.
With the St. Paul’s kids in their white cassocks accompanying me, I followed the procession out to the grave where the boy’s Little League teammates stood, listening to the minister repeating his message.
When it was over my white robed companions and I went back to my car. Later we heard that the Little League boys were sure that their friend was in heaven, because, they said, “Three angels were there at the side through the whole funeral.”