Retired, Still Foolish

I’m taking some PTO today from hospice . . . personal time off. Not long from now, after walking the dog and munching on breakfast granola, I’ll aim the car north on Highway 99 for a church meeting.

This year, the Annual Conference for the California-Nevada region of the United Methodist Church, will gather in lovely Modesto. A nice little city.

I will attend for a few hours.

Today, in the last calendar hours of spring, I will be at the Modesto conclave so that I can hear my name read as one of the newly retired clergy. This gray-haired old coot will do the official deed, shifting from an “active” to a “retired” minister.

No bells. No whistles. No parade. Rumor has it that I get a swell medallion for a keepsake. The church is nothing if not generous.

Maybe forty-five years ago, I had my first wade in the water of denominational gatherings where ordination was discussed. At some hazy point in the past, I declared my candidacy for the ministry and a group of men (yeah, it was mostly men then) had to ask me a few come-to-Jesus questions and either recommend or not recommend that I move on to some other committee for more approval or disapproval. I was ordained a deacon on a hot June night in Redding, California in 1977. The rest is history and mystery, rural churches and campus ministry, hospice and new church starts. Oh, the failures I had. Oh, the joy I shared. Continue reading →

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How Much Should a Pastor be Paid for a Wedding?

It was my first church where I was a full-time minister.

I recall spotting the best man striding purposefully towards me. It was after the wedding service, but before the reception had begun. He was pale, skinny, and so (so) young! In a tuxedo looking like he’d co-starred in a teen slasher film that ended badly and predictably at a prom, he stopped in front of me.

“Thanks,” he said, “for doing Tommy’s wedding.”

“You’re welcome.” (I don’t remember the groom’s name, but why not Thomas? Tommy to his pals.)

“He wanted me to give you this.” The best man reached into a jacket pocket and then handed me a folded envelope.

“Gotta go take pictures for the wedding party thing,” he said. “But thanks, again.”

I slipped the envelope in my Bible. Since the wedding was for the granddaughter of one of the long-time church members, I knew quite a few in attendance. I socialized, soon moseying over to where pictures were being taken and posing for a friendly photo with the new newlyweds. The reception followed. Boring me, I left early.

It was on the way home that I glanced at the envelope. Continue reading →

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Micah as Tweet and Truth

Micah 6:1-18; Matthew 5:1-12 – The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – for Sunday, January 29, 2017

“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Once, still a young enough pastor, I memorized Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount for my Easter preaching.

Ego influenced me.

Oh, yes, there were other reasons, including using Lent’s forty days of discipline for the endeavor and a desire to share the unvarnished, unfettered good news of Jesus.

Every word. Every verse. Every paragraph.

I proclaimed the opening beatitudes to Jesus’ final warnings to those who built their “house on sand.”

I worked with a local professional actor to perfect my delivery. I prayed. I sweated. I doubted.

I did it.

The three chapters took around twenty minutes to preach. I was pleased as punch (okay, proud) that none of the words during that singular Easter Sunday were mine. I didn’t pick and choose the “good” stuff. I didn’t avoid the difficult sections. On that long-ago day of resurrection, I gave a small congregation an unfiltered dose of Jesus according to Matthew’s Gospel.

One person, a first-time visitor who reluctantly grasped my hand after worship, told me that he’d never come back to this church. How dare I use Easter to make divorced people feel guilty!

. . . and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery . . .

It wasn’t me! It was Jesus! I was only quoting verses 31 and 32 in good old chapter five of Matthew!

Please, blame Jesus! Continue reading →

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