06 Jul Celebrations, Milestones, & Leaping
Celebrations are an essential part of being human. We seem to have an innate need to mark pivotal events or moments in our lives. So, we celebrate anniversaries, graduations and birthdays. We erect monuments and memorials. We wear wedding rings. This week, of course, we commemorated our nation’s independence. Flags have been everywhere. Fireworks have boomed, hissed and lit up the night skies. Parades and cookouts have been in full swing. Red, white and blue are the colors of our national pride, and at least for a moment, this week we seemed to focus on all that we share and celebrate as Americans, rather than on our differences and disagreements. We have much for which to be thankful, and July 4th is a good time to remember that.
On Sunday I will mark a milestone of my own, as I celebrate five years at Calvary Presbyterian Church. Words cannot even begin to adequately express my profound gratitude for the honor of pastoring this congregation. I didn’t exactly have a “burning bush” experience, but my call to this church has been as clear to me as the call Moses experienced on that lonely mountain in Midian. That clarity has grounded me over the years. No matter what else has happened, my call to this place and these people has never wavered.
When the invitation to be Calvary’s pastor came, I experienced some of the same emotions as Moses, too. Calvary was (and still is) both urban and multicultural. I knew nothing about urban ministry or multicultural congregations. The church desperately wanted and needed to grow. I knew nothing about church renewal, either. I had served local churches in numerous volunteer capacities through the years, and once I was ordained, I had been a hospice chaplain and an Interim Associate Pastor. But, I had never taken the helm of a church before. Was I up to the job? Would I even like it? Was I ready for all the responsibility, the entire weight of the “mantle”? There was no way I could know for sure. I was sure about God’s call, so the only thing left to do was to take a leap of faith and jump.
I wasn’t jumping alone. God has been so, so faithful through these five years, surprising and delighting me over and over and over again. I have come to know and love this congregation. I have had the privilege of baptizing their babies and burying their loved ones. I have welcomed dozens of new people into our community, and I have said a lot of goodbyes as well, as jobs, retirement, or family issues have moved members away from us. I’ve visited with folks at their kitchen tables or in their hospital rooms, eaten with them at church potluck suppers, and broken the bread of Communion with them. We have prayed together, cried together, laughed together and sung together. We have worked shoulder to shoulder, reaching out to our neighborhood. People have shared their griefs and joys with me, and I have shared mine with them.
We have poured ourselves out in loving and forgiving one another. We have also poured ourselves into the scripture. We have ardently pursued the Kingdom of God. We have invited God’s Spirit to powerfully work in and through us. We have listened and discerned, waited and watched, blessed and been blessed, worshiped and worked. And God has been with us, faithfully loving and nurturing us to grow as followers, not just fans, of Jesus.
It hasn’t all been fun and games, of course. Every job has its share of routine maintenance, daily minutia, and unavoidable drama: leaky toilets, budgets and reports, jammed copiers, computer meltdowns, mice scurrying across the floor, the air conditioner that failed to work on Easter Sunday. Still, good humor generally prevails and Calvary’s leadership has been and continues to be a joy and an inspiration. I am blessed to work with our Elders, our church staff, and the myriad volunteers who do everything from change lightbulbs to diapers. I could not do my job without them.
As I reflect on these five years, I am overcome with joy and gratitude. I love going to work every day—okay, almost every day. I love watching how God is moving in us. I love our worship. I love how our sense of mission and service is blossoming. I love Be the Kingdom Sundays. I love how our children are taking on responsibilities in the life of the church. I love how people support, encourage, and pray for one another. I love being invited into people’s lives, to share their journeys. That is holy ground, and I do not take it lightly or take it for granted.
So, thank you, Calvary, for five life-changing years. You are a gift and a grace in my life. Together, let us continue to live into our call to be hope and peace for our neighbors, to the glory of God.
Yours for the Kingdom,