Well howdy there, good friends. It is I, the Bertman, returning.
I had a truly wonderful two week vacation, involving zero travel and a lot of time in my backyard. I rested. I floated in my pool, watched several Yankee games front to back, read two novels, learned to make a mean Mojito and ate several things which were not good for me. I prayed. I worshipped. I played with my kids.
All in all it was maybe the most restful vacation I’ve ever had. Thank you God!!
Jumping back into the fray this week was good though. Felt good to be back in the saddle, although it took me a good long time to un-bury myself from all the junk mail.
Wednesday brought with it one of the most surreal and wonderful experiences I’ve ever had as a pastor. I took a call Monday, requesting me to do a funeral. A 50-something year old biker who I had never met. His wife had come to True North a couple of times and I was the closest thing they had to a family pastor.
When I got to the funeral parlor Wednesday morning, the place was PACKED. And I was the only one in the room wearing a suit. It was leather and denim and black boots across the board. It was maybe the first time in my life I ever felt over dressed.
After I was done speaking I opened the floor to anyone who might want to say a few words. Several of the guys stood up talked about the good times they had had at a place called The Maples, and how they were all going to ride out there after the funeral to celebrate and to remember Joe.
When it came time for me to close in prayer, I gave the usual benediction, but kept my hand raised a moment longer and said “And all you bikers – I don’t know what The Maples is, but you guys behave yourselves (scattered laughter), and may the Lord bless you and keep you safe on your bikes.”
They must have appreciated it because right there, while I was still standing up front, people started shouting out that I had to come with them. This was more than a little bit wierd and I was sure they were just being polite. Polite bikers.
They were serious though. A bunch of them continued to ask me about going after we all stepped outside. So, I looked at my watch and said “what the heck?” How often does a pastor get invited to hang out with a bunch of bikers?!
So, I ran a few errands and made a few calls and pointed myself toward Manorville. When I arrived at The Maples the lot was already filled with bikes. It’s a huge house with a small bar area in the front, and an outdoor bar and HUGE deck in the back, leading down to a really big lawn with a tent with tables, catered food and a small pond. Honestly, one of the coolest spots I’ve ever seen.
And it was wall to wall bikers. When I walked back there, still wearing my suit, it was way beyond sticking out like a sore thumb. But the reaction I got was incredible. They were AMAZED that I came out. They all figured I would say I was coming, then just not show up.
I spent an amazing three hours getting to know people who have probably never talked to a pastor in their life. And they welcomed me in like family. I don’t even have words for it. It was without a doubt the coolest funeral I’ve ever done, and the most welcomed I’ve ever felt like a bunch of strangers.
I don’t ride. But bikers are my kinda people. They were rough around the edges, but they were loving, kind, generous and honest. I told them all they were welcome at True North anytime. I don’t know if we’ll see any Harley’s in the lot this week, but man, it would really make my day if we did.
Before I left, two big guys came up and put their arms around my shoulder. They pointed towards the house and informed me that they had a working tattoo machine inside and gave me a not-so-subtle hint that maybe I should get my first tatt.
I managed to escape the day ink-free, but I gotta say, I really thought about it. Maybe next time. And maybe I’m somehow supposed to become a pastor who ministers to bikers.
I guess we’ll see!
Thanks for reading, gang. And if you’re ever out near Manorville, do stop by the ‘Mapes.