Today's my dad's last sunday. His last at his church, possibly his last as a pastor. What a strange thing that must be. To be in a ministry like that so frequently defines who we are as people, particularly for someone who's done it his entire life. And suddenly he's not a pastor anymore. Do unemployed pastors count?
He'll always do pastorly things of course, wherever he winds up. You can't do a job for 40 years then suddenly become a different person. Especially a job like this, a 24/7 on-call position that alters not only your own life, politics, buying habits, what you drink, what you wear, who you talk to, but that of your entire family. You are under the microscope all the time. So perhaps it's freeing in a way. Or will it be like the caged animal that fears the outside world?
But churches are not cages, they are places where people grow in wonderful relationships with each other and God. And I think the biggest loss is that of a community. The Church is God's action on earth - more than that, it is God on earth. It is how God does things and shows Godself to the world. The most important thing is not our individual relationship with God. It is what we are doing as part of the Church. The Church goes on with or without us, and our decision is whether to participate and thus be part of the life of God. There's no kingdom life without church life.
And so you go from being in charge of one of these little subsets of the kingdom to being...what? Not even really a member of one, for the time being. No longer in working partnership with those who've been about God's business with you for 10 years. What a strange and unsettling new sensation. And how much it must hurt.
I pray for my father today. I pray for him to find his new place - his new work - in the kingdom. And for him to take joy and comfort from the fact that his example led 2 of 3 of his kids into the pastorate. The kingdom will go on and will be passed to the next ones. But he still has vital work. After all, the eternal life is only just begun.
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This is a wonderful post.
When my son was younger, I would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up -- ice cream man, indian man, police man, the usual. One day he looked up at me and asked, "Dad, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Retired," I told him.
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