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20151125_180844It’s been a busy year of funerals for my congregation.

Here’s a seldom-revealed secret you should know about pastors – we prefer presiding at funerals more so than weddings.

Never would have guessed that, would you? Well, let me explain.

If you can for just a moment, consider the differences. In one, a wedding, the pastor is often considered as a prop – a mere accessory to the event. And so the two main figures – and no, not the bride and groom, but the bride and the mother of the bride – move from corner to corner, edge to edge as conjoined governesses ruling the royal provinces, even trying to impose their wills in a land that isn’t theirs to rule – the liturgy. Certainly I want the event to be memorable for the couple, and yes, if possible, I want the mother of the bride to vicariously achieve as many of her motherly desires as possible, but there’s a reason the Marriage liturgy stands as it does. God knows we need help keeping a better truth at the center of the event, and so the pastor and the liturgy, in a sense, are in place to lead us when we don’t want or even know we need to be led lest the marriage begin with the wrong point of origin and with an erroneous heading.

A funeral, now that is another story altogether.

At a funeral, people rarely want to lead. They hardly want to impose themselves. They don’t want to be the center of attention. They don’t even want to be there. The point of origin is unquestionable and the heading is clear. They want someone else, anyone else, to steer. They want anyone else to be the focus of the event. They want someone to take their hand and lead them to and through the next step. In fact, they want to be carried in the arms of someone much stronger than they will ever be, someone who can handle the disaster and offer a solution; someone who has been through it before and has a care, concern, and wisdom for revealing hope’s unquenchable glimmer in the midst of their darkened sadness.

At a funeral, a pastor isn’t an accessory and the liturgy isn’t an irritation. Both are needed.

Believe it or not, I have certain whiskies that I consider “after-marriage” drams and some that I only tip after a funeral. The “after-marriage” whiskies are the ones that serve as a reward of sorts for surviving the event. The “after-funeral” editions are the ones that are worthy of raising in memory of the deceased and in thankfulness for the privilege of being able to serve the surviving loved ones in their darkest hours.

The Clynelish 14 is an after-funeral edition.

The nose of this particular whisky is a cheerful whisper of honey and tangerines. The palate is the heartfelt and welcoming embrace of a sherry wine-kissed concoction of malt and tree nuts boiled to a steam and filling the room like incense. The medium finish is a warmed slice of buttercream and almond cake with a more swiftly fleeting peck of oak spice.

Pleasant. Enjoyable. Serene. Complete.

Of course I’m speaking of both the whisky and the one who’s gone before us into the joys of heaven.

To all others, slàinte mhath.