Life has all sorts of surprises along the way, you know? God shows up and sends our lives off in unexpected directions.
So here we are. Two months ago I was heading back to Trinity for an expected new chapter of 2-4 (more?) years of ministry and life. A phone call came my way a month ago, and now I am sorting files in my office...doing ministry while getting ready to shift to a new place.
An old friend said when there is a pastoral change it is like a congregation is having a funeral while planning for a wedding. There are tears. There is grief. People say, "So soon?" (Of course there may be a few who shrug and say, "How did it take this long for this to happen?") Folks are talking about blessing us, saying goodbye, and at the same time leaders of the church are getting ready for a new chapter. Thinking about a new start with someone God will send our way.
My role is shifting. I can feel it happening as each day goes by. From teaching and guiding my role is shifting to preaching and blessing. Oh, the other day in staff I led our team in a conversation about coaching and leadership and teamwork. But those moments will now slow to trickle and I'll be doing two things: focusing on preaching and blessing people...and receiving blessings.
It's happening all the time. I am getting notes in my email each day. Sweet words. When I go to the Y or step into a coffee shop, people stop me...they talk...they bless me. So getting anywhere can be a slow process! I am intentionally lingering with people...soaking up every blessed moment. Looking people in the eyes.
Preaching, as it always have, will get the best investment of time and heart and soul I have to offer. I remember talking with a pastor, years ago, who in the month before retirement was preaching recycled sermons. That news broke my heart. I thought, "You have a chance to sum up what you believe...what this is all about...to bless your people as they step into a new future... and you are going through the motions." When time is short it isn't time to go on auto-pilot but to use each minute in the pulpit as faithfully and gracefully and honestly as you can.
Things seem lighter. My role is shifting. It's about those blessed little moments when God gives me chances to bless others and receive a blessing. To, as best we can, talk about what God has done in us and between us and through us. They are little moments...but they're not so little.
Ecclesiastes (4) says there is a time for everything. A time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to scatter and a time to gather, a time to embrace and a time to step back, a time to keep and a time to let go: these days are somehow a mixture of holding and letting go. I let go of the work, of the role I may have played, but I am holding onto people...savoring that...every word, every smile, every moment shared.