So I’ll warn you from the outset, this isn’t a real devotion. It is a thank you. (Though I do find inspiration from our forefather, St. Paul). I simply have to find a way to broadly acknowledge everyone’s kindness, since it will take a while to respond individually.
Many of you know that I don’t crave the spotlight. In entering the ministry, I found that I was able to justify the public nature of things like worship leadership, preaching and teaching, marrying and burying … because they were clearly defined roles with boundaries of good practice around them. I could deal with being in front of people, when the expectations of the role were clear. Other more spontaneous public settings have always made me anxious because I don’t have a script for them … expectations are not clear … and thus I always feel unprepared and klutzy. So Sunday’s recognition of PG’s and my ordination anniversaries was a bit awkward for me.
But I must say that the spirit of support that all of you embodied won the day. It allowed me to get past my own insecurities and enjoy the moment. The box of cards was the perfect gift for me … in part because of your kind words and expressions of affirmation … but also for the stories that you shared about places where our lives intersected in ministry settings. My sole reason for entering the ministry was to preach and teach … worship and pray … and baptize, confirm, marry and bury. The stories many of you shared recalling those kinds of moments was more gratifying than you can imagine. St. Paul’s words to the Philippian church in what many bible scholars call “the epistle of joy” summarize my sentiments:
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. (Phil 1:3-5, NRSV)
So I offer this to simply sat “thank you!” A pastor cannot be a pastor without a congregation, and I could not imagine enjoying a call more than I have this one. Your willingness to explore new ways of being the people of God … your commitment to raising children into faith in the midst of congregational life … your desire to serve beyond the walls of our building … and your willingness to laugh at yourself and the ironies of life … are all traits that I aspire to in my own life and ministry. I am grateful to have found a community that shares in those commitments. You have shaped me to be the pastor I am.
So this week in your times of reflection, think about those places in our community life where you find joy … those places where what happens here resonates deeply within you. And like Paul, take a moment to remember those fellow members who serve with you at the heart of those ministries, and remember them in prayer … joyful prayer. I will be doing that same thing with all of you in my mind and heart.