From Fr. Steve – September 2016
This is my last missive to you as your rector. Our lives have been intertwined for almost sixteen years. It seems like yesterday that I showed up for interviews. We have seen many come and go over these years. We have succeeded to add to our physical space, add to our staff, work on numerous Habitat houses, go on a few mission trips, helped one of our own graduate from seminary, held an ordination, and much more.
Give the glory to God for all of this.
My retirement feels like a death to some. I know, you have told me. It does somewhat to me. I cleaned out my desk and emptied my shelves. Every memento, every file, every picture, and little reminders of the past made me happy and sad all at once. I remembered cleaning out my father’s office when he died. It felt like that at times.
I hope to live on for many years, and after your new rector gets acclimated, I hope I can come back and continue to be a part of the story of St. Matthew’s. I won’t be your rector, I’ll be resurrected with a new role. I’m thinking about joining the choir.
Here are some last words to you all. Read Joshua 24 and try to live into the scene that the author creates for the reader. These are Joshua’s last words to the people before he dies.
Love one another. That’s straight out of the gospels. Give and forgive. These two words are the essence of Godliness. Find points of agreement. You can’t always get what you want (Rolling Stones). Honor one another enough to listen to each other. If you disagree, let it be for a season, not an eternity. The new day will bring new ideas. If you really believe in God, then believe that God will keep God’s promises. God says over and over that if you put your trust in God first, all that you ask for will be yours.
Sadly, we fail to recognize that God works these miracles out in today’s church through leading people to us. These people may not come up and say, “I hear you are looking to start a ministry to the homeless. I have been creating homeless ministry for years.” You may not know that you wanted to do this. You may pray for a sense of peace, or God’s will. We pray often without knowing what would be the most ideal situation for our health and happiness. God knows.
When people walk through the doorway to join you in worship, make an effort to find out something about them that will help you to remember them. Maybe their name is Jack. Jack rhymes with tack, and Jack and the beanstalk comes to mind. Jack is from Wisconsin, and you find out Jack has a love of baseball. Jack can restart our softball team. Try it. It works. Jack may become your new best friend.
Lastly, Christian giving isn’t an option. If you are a Christian, you will be part of a gathered community. When people were first called Christians at Antioch, they were called this because of being a part of an extraordinary community of faith, focused on Christ. To call oneself a Christian without being a part of a gathered community of faith is a stretch. We have a responsibility to each other in community as well. This is why we give.
Certainly, there will be all sorts of people coming together for worship. Some will just want a private devotional time with Jesus. There isn’t anything wrong with this; it is just not what Jesus means when he talks about disciples in community – the church.
Our form of Christian Community has Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. All of these have certain roles. The Holy Spirit of God will lead the Rector that you will call to this parish. This person won’t look like me, won’t talk like me, won’t have the same gifts as I do, and this is all a good thing. When I was a layperson, I didn’t always think of my rector as the “ideal” rector. I had several that stood out to me as people who gave me inspiration. But, every rector I had was someone I respected, and I worked hard to help him or her in his or her ministry. That is our job as lay people.
So, I charge you with a sacred responsibility. Whomever God sends to you is a key to your salvation. These might come as laypeople, or as clergy. Love them. You will find much happiness in doing this, and your faith will grow.