Monday, February 16, 2009

"Last" Things

As I've posted, I have resigned the pastorate of Jubilee, and my last Sunday there will be March 8th. That is not much time.

As I have gone through February, I am acutely aware that I am doing things for the last time. The last pot luck. The last business meeting. The last board meeting with the deacons. The last donut consumed at the ministerial association meeting. The last Thursday prayer meeting in our lovely prayer room. Next week will be the last time I will sing with the worship team.

Yesterday was my last sermon. ( I will be sharing my thoughts and farewell "wisdom" with the congregation on March 8th, but it will not be a sermon. Next week the minister who will be serving as the interim pastor will be preaching. The following week, Ken will do the honors.) Soon it will be my last time to bless the bread and cup. I do not want to think about that.

Two years ago.

Yesterday could have been so difficult. I chose to do a series on Gideon, one of my favorite Bible characters, before I knew it would be my last series at this church. Yesterday was the forth and last message in the series. God knew, and preaching this has been more Holy Spirit led than I could have dreamed. Yesterday was not difficult, though I did get teary-eyed a couple of times. Instead, the presence of God was so real, my joy in preaching so profound, the response of the people (as we gathered around the altar area and sang "The Battle Belongs to the Lord") so heartfelt, that I have felt like I am soaring.

I am not saying it is all peaches and cream and glory. I have cried, been afraid, questioned--pretty much run the gamut of expected emotions. But over all I am so full of expectation. I believe God hand-picked, so to speak, the man who will serve as interim and lead the church through the transition. I can say with total honesty that I believe the church is more healthy that it has been in the last 25 years. I envy the pastor who will come, because there is a very different group of people than when I arrived. They are ready to embrace change in a way that is astounding, and they are sadder but wiser. The three deacons will share honestly with each other. They will pray earnestly. There is not much likelihood of tense undercurrents or of completion.

Last night was the last Valentine's dinner. I did not want to attend. I thought it would be sad or difficult in other ways. It was not. I have not laughed so hard in a long time. We all laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. The connections between us were wonderfu and it was fine to realize that those connections are about to change forever.

What a wonderful group of people about to be baptized (last summer).

I know our last Sunday will be difficult for me, but I believe that God's grace will be sufficient, as I have experienced already. I am totally confident that now is the time for me to go.

The thing that brings tears to my eyes, that brings a catch in my heart, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach is the awareness that these "last things" will perhaps not just be the last at this church, but the last. Period. That is a real possibility. If I have learned nothing else over these last ten years, I have learned that there are no guarantees. I will stand on three things;

1. God loves me.
2. The Lord has promised to be "with me" till the end.
3. God's plans and purposes are not for me to know. Maybe in the life to come, but most certainly not in this one.

About 15 people have said or written the same thing about my future, something I don't want to share here yet, but something good. I hope they are correct, but I have no assurance of that. Sometimes things just make no sense. Sometimes life is totally unfair. Sometimes dreams are shattered. Sometimes faithful servants of God are overlooked and forgotten. Sometimes unfaithful ones appear to prosper. I used to think (how naive I was!) that if I did the right, honorable, ethical, obedient thing, God would bless and prosper my ministry. I now know, as I said, that there are no guarantees and I can have no expectations upon the Almighty but those of love and presence.

Where does that leave me? Clinging to God with all my might. Other than that, I have no idea what to expect.

16 comments:

Iris said...

Thank you for sharing here so openly. My prayers are very much with you -- can only really cover -- but I do know our Lord is very present with you. How precious to have HIm.
Sending much love through prayer.

Sophia said...

This is beautiful, Singing Owl--and very helpful as I try to sort out my own complicated path in ministry. Praying for you as you move through this next step on your journey.

truth said...

Thank-you for sharing this. I have many thoughts, but will keep them to myself for now.

Betsy said...

I've been praying for you, knowing that the instant you announced you were leaving, things would change: you, the congregation, and the relational space you occupy together. I'm glad that the laughter and tears are mingled together, along with hopes and fears. You've got your feet firmly planted on the Rock who is your sure foundation...thanks be to God!

Anonymous said...

A lot of things make NO sense at all and just appear to be insane/crazy....but so is God's love. I believe that your assessment of Jubilee is accurate and if YOU believe it then you must also recognize that God brought YOU to Jubilee to guide it through this difficult and challenging period to the point where it is poised and ready for so much more. What a joy it must be to know that you have been chosen and mightily used of God for this difficult work. And why would we even worry that, having used you and grown you through this, he would set you on the shelf and not use you elsewhere when your heart is desirous to serve Him? I am confident that our Lord is fully aware of your strengths & gifts (weaknesses & faults don't matter here!) and is preparing a new venue of service for Him. What is it? When will it be known? How long will you have to wait? Ah...those are the questions that rattle our minds and disturb our peace but He has it all figured out and planned. I expect nothing less than His best for you and your journey of faith is encouraging as I come along side and pray with you through this transition period. Prayerfully connected, heart-connected and Spirit-connected, Maureen

Auntie Knickers said...

Keeping you in my prayers during this time, and hoping that good will come.

Ruth said...

It is the "last" but also the beginning of a new adventure. New adventures are always scary and feel extremely uncomfortable (at least for me!) but they are still adventures.

I can't see what the Lord has in the future for you. I do know that you are blessed by God and will be used in a variety of ways because God doesn't waste willing talent.

(((( hugs ))))

Presbyterian Gal said...

((((SO)))))

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXl10a9gJwA

Where ever you go, you'll be great!

Rev Kim said...

This is so beautiful, thank you.

And clinging to God is not a bad place to be, not bad at all.

Singing Owl said...

Blessings on you, Iris, Sophia,Truth, Betsy, Maureen, Auntie K., Ruth, PG and Kim for your well-wishes. They mean so much to me...and the prayers mean even more.

Today may be the roughest day I have had. I do not know why. It just is. I just feel out of sorts, grumpy, sad...and I need a haircut! Bad hair days do NOT help a woman's outlook on life, you know?

Iris, I have such respect and admiration for you. I have a sense of the kind of woman you are by the things you teach. Thank you for caring about me, a pastor you have never met. Sophia, what different worlds I suspect we inhabit...and yet I feel very connected with you, dear sister, in your struggle to find your place in God's larger plan. Praying for you. Truth, hey, go ahead and share them! If they are not for the "public" well, email me perhaps? Betsy, you are new to my blog, unless you have been lurking for a long time, but I have thought of you so many times lately...wishing I could visit you. I told my husband that. You know how sometimes you just know about people? I've told him that for a month or so after leaving I do not want to attend a church where we will likely end up attending. I want to "clear my thinking" in a sense, by visiting churches I would not normally be attending. I hope I will get to visit Cheesehead--and I want to visit an Episcopalian church. I so wish it could be yours! Maureen, I can't begin to say what a jewel I believe you to be. I love you lots, and your love, prayers and belief in me are amazing to me! AK, I am hoping too. Hope...without it what do we have? Ruth, my dear friend of so many years now, you know the infulence you have been in my life. (((HUGS))) Thank you. Presby Gal, I did watch your You Tube suggestion and at first I thought, "Huh?" I'm a bit slow today. But when the song began I started laughing. I need laughter today. ;-) I am continuing to pray for you. When I visit California to go to Betsy's church, I'll be sure to come to your place too! If necessary, I'll help dig you out of the pile. ;-) (((hugs, PG))) Kim, Ken says I need to write you guys and find out when the rendezvous is, since we will be so free and unimcumbered by schedules (me, anyhow) that maybe we can come to Montana!

Darrell said...

From someone who got to leave one church doing all the last things, and one church that we didn't get to do last things, doing the last things is easier, no matter how hard it seems. Know that you have friends near and far who care about your last things and your next things.

Mrs. Dr. Platypus

Singing Owl said...

Mrs. D.P.--Good reminder. I too have done it without the "last" things and without much of anyone being sad, so this is better. That is for sure!

zorra said...

Singing Owl, that is such a complicated mix--tears and grief for what is happening in the present, plus wonder and anticipation for the future. God is doing a new thing. But all we know is the old thing, so we grieve, and wonder. Praying for peace--and for Spring.

HeyJules said...

I cannot wait to see where you end up, SO. I know God's hand will be on every moment of it.

Be blessed!

Kievas said...

It's hard to leave so much behind, and begin a new chapter. The three things you mentioned will sustain you. Well, actually not so much #3, but definitely the first two :)

Iris said...

Prayers for you, Singing Owl.