2102) Retirement Sunday (part two of two)

 Last month I retired after forty years as a Lutheran pastor.  The meditations for yesterday and today contain some of what I said in the sermon on my last Sunday (August 25).


     (…continued)  We gather here every Sunday to hear God’s Word, and what does God’s Word tell us?  It tells us first of all that there is a God, in heaven: “Our Father who art in heaven,” we pray here every week.  When we pray that, we are saying we believe that there is Someone bigger than we are, bigger than this whole world.  We also express our belief there is another place, heaven, a place beyond everything we see and experience here on this little planet in this little universe.  And we even believe that there is a time beyond all time here– “forever and ever,” we pray, as we conclude that Lord’s prayer.  We come to church each week to get our eyes opened up a little wider so that we can be reminded of eternity.  Everything else we do all week is connected only to the here and now; such a brief ‘here and now’ that is so quickly getting away on us.  We work so we can eat so we can keep these temporary bodies alive.  We work with, visit with, fight with, and interact with people, other temporary beings (like ourselves), who come and go in and out of our lives, and then, in and out of this world.  Everything we do and everything we see all week, is temporary.  Even this world, (says the Bible and the scientists), even this whole wide world, is a temporary home, and will one day freeze over when our temporary sun burns out.  Nothing will last, except that word and promise of God.  Isaiah said, ‘the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God lasts forever.”  And James asks, “What is your life?– you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  That’s what happens to us.  We vanish like a mist.  We perish.

     But in John 3:16 Jesus offered us a different ending to our story when he said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so what whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have ETERNAL LIFE.” …NOT PERISH… but have ETERNAL LIFE.  You don’t get that kind of promise anywhere else.  But according to John 3:16, we can get that from Jesus, and it has been my privilege for these nine years to stand in this pulpit and tell you about Jesus.  Jesus, who lived a life like us in the here and now of this temporary world, Jesus came to show us the way to that eternal home, and by believing in him, we receive that eternal life.  If you ask me, that is something better than a mug of beer.

     Over the last three weeks our family watched my mother die, and that is a powerful and profoundly moving time.  For the most part, she faded away quietly and peacefully, but there were some difficult times, especially as she neared the end.  She went through the loss of appetite and then was even unable to swallow water.  There were the long hours of sleeping and unresponsiveness, and then the occasional, surprising and wonderful, spurts of energy and lucidity.  Then, there was the labored breathing and then the horrible death rattle; the long pauses between breaths, and then quiet.  And when it seemed like it was going on forever, my brother said several times, “It is time.  She has just got to cross over.”  Cross over to what?

    Our comfort and her comfort during that entire time was that she was on her way to something else, and that death would not be the end, but only a new beginning.  And that is what makes all the difference.  Many times I read to my mother those words of Jesus in John 14 where he said to the disciples, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in me.  I am going to my Father’s house to prepare a place for you, and I will one day come back and take you to be with me, so that you also may be where I am.”

     Forty years ago I became a pastor so that I could spend my life proclaiming that promise.  It has been a privilege and a joy…


Philippians 1:3-6  —  I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that God, who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.


A prayer for pastors by Martin Luther:

     O Lord, you see how unworthy I am to fill such a great and important office.  Were it not for your counsel, I would have utterly failed in it long ago.  Therefore, I call upon you for guidance.  Gladly indeed will I give my heart and my voice to this service.  I want to teach the people.  I myself want constantly to seek and study your Word, and eagerly meditate upon it.  Use me as your instrument.  Only, dear Lord, do not forsake me; for if I am left alone, I will most certainly ruin everything.  Amen.