I Have Never Suffered

It’s Lent. The second Sunday’s looming.

Let’s talk suffering.

And yet, how can I?

I am an American white guy, mid-sixties, with a swell pension plan, health insurance covered by my wife’s job, with access to Medicare on the horizon. I was raised by ridiculously loving parents, played in quiet, safe neighborhoods as a kid (and later as a teen), and have two remarkable sisters who still voluntarily talk with me and openly express love for me. I labored in my unremarkable career as a pastor in places where people handed over the keys to the buildings on the first day of work—they trusted me from the get-go! Those churches paid a way-below-average salary (compared to others of similar education, experience, and responsibility), but always gave me tons of freedom to hike the mountains, write in the early mornings, and to fiercely preach the “good news.”

I have never suffered. Continue reading →

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Heading for Lent in a Tesla?

It’s the first Sunday of Lent.

I read the lectionary. The Gospel lessons. Mark’s words.

And I laughed. I’m a bad boy. I shouldn’t be laughing on the first Sunday of the most serious churchy season of the year. “Be strong, Larry,” I mutter aloud. Hold the chuckles. Resist the mirth. Lose the smile.

Lent is preparation for Easter, after all. Yes, at the end of a six-pack of Sundays, there’s the glory and story of the resurrection. But first, there will be Lent’s traditional forty days of sacrifice, penitence, and reflection.

I giggled.

Badness reigned.

It’s the first Sunday of Lent and I read some of the opening verses of the first chapter of Mark. I’m doing okay until Mark 1:12 (NRSV). It’s immediately following Jesus’ baptism. Good ole John still stood in the Jordan, dripping wet with a befuddled what-have-I-done look on his gaunt face. In less than a handful of verses after Mark 1:12 (starting at your thumb, you wouldn’t make it to your pinkie on the finger count), Jesus met the future first Pope, along with his brother Andrew, and (it can be argued) the start of the Christian church commenced. Continue reading →

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Impending Retirement, Part 1

I plan to retire from the United Methodist ministry this year.

Everything will change; nothing will change.

Earlier this week, with an email quieter than a whisper in the front pew, my district superintendent informed me that a committee approved my request. Their decision would be forwarded to a next person or group and soon—with hands raised or voices murmuring “Aye”—my experiment as an active clergy will conclude in its forty-first year.

Anyone hear the angels singing about my demise? (Yeah, I didn’t hear ’em either.)

I’ve spent long, arduous seconds poring over scripture, seeking the Greek and Hebrew words that might refer to retirement or pension or social security. I’m still looking. Retirement is a modern addition to human folly.

I figure my ministry has all been bonus or a burden since my early thirties. Around the time I departed my first appointment as an associate pastor in an urban church to start my second appointment as a solo pastor in a rural town, I became older than Jesus. Depending on which Gospel you want to place your bets on, Jesus was crucified in his early thirties.

No retirement for the Prince of Peace. His savings plan was far different than mine. Continue reading →

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