“My bags are packed, I’m ready to go . . . ” and thus starts one of my favorite songs from my younger days, Leaving on a Jet Plane. Yes, my bags are packed. In fact, essentially my whole life is packed, and safely stored for the time being. No jet plane, but indeed, “O babe, I hate to go.”
For months now, I’ve been preparing for this goodbye with my retirement, official on Dec. 31,2013. I search for words to describe what my seven and a half years have been as pastor of the Krum United Methodist Church. I finally land here: I have never seen before such a healthy and loving church community, a group of people who will not only ”talk the talk” but will also “walk the walk.”
Christians take hits, and often appropriate ones, for being quick to judge and condemn others while being blind to our own humongous injustices. But every once in a while, a group of people come together who are willing to go to the depths of their own brokenness and find the gracious, loving, redemptive power of forgiving love meeting them in the darkest of places. Every once in a while, the mystery of grace infuses a community to such an extent that light starts radiating from them.
On Sunday mornings at the end of our worship, I pronounce the Benediction, those final good words. I remind each of us that we are the light of the world. I then send us out to be that light by doing all the good we can, to as many as we can, for as long as we can and in as many ways as we can. I look at the faces of these gathered together– all just ordinary people with multiple life challenges–and I see them glowing.
This past Sunday, a number of people joined the church, several were baptized, and one especially mature youth confirmed. I know their stories, and I see the scars life has left on them. I see myself in them, a bit beat up by life, kind of quirky (or a lot quirky, depending on who is talking about me), loaded with imperfections and challenging histories. And I also saw the Spirit of God descending on them and think, “I got to be a part of this.”
There may be no greater privilege in life than to be a pastor. And there may be no occupation in life so draining as that of pastor.
I’ve buried many, held the sorrow and pain of many more, shared the joys permeating our joint lives, and internalized the personal agony over those who left this community because of me.
I have wrestled with financial challenges of an organization totally dependent upon the willingness of people to give up a portion of hard-to-come-by-income in order to make sure that the next generation of people hear of the hope of a gracious God.
I’ve prepared and delivered over 350 original messages, written that many newspaper columns, scrubbed spots off carpets, pulled weeds and changed the toilet paper regularly.
I’ve served as midwife with many as they have experienced new birth in Jesus, waiting patiently as they labored through the most powerful questions of life and death, of eternity and grace, of sin and salvation.
I can’t imagine a better way to have expended myself over these years.
Now, it is time. A really fine pastor, The Rev. Jessica Wright, takes her place as Pastor as of January 1, 2014. She, her husband, Andy, and their young son, James, will soon move to Krum, take up residence in the parsonage, now lovingly scrubbed clean and carefully repaired by the good people of this church.
I sense the leading of God into the art and vocation of a full-time writer. Although I have written my last column for The Krum News, I shall continue my column in the Denton Record Chronicle, will be doing far more blogging on this blog and have several books coming. The first, An Ordinary Death, is available as a Kindle e-book now. It is an exploration of the way we approach death in our society and asks the question, “How then shall we die?” I expect to be doing much more work in this area as well as continued analysis on the nature of a vital church.
I have loved Krum and will miss the life here. I’m moving only so far as Denton to a small apartment just off the downtown square, and invite those who wish to stay in touch with me.
Thank you for these years and your welcome. May you find all blessing in your lives.