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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Edging Toward Lent

Men with blades!

There were men with blades.

Sound dangerous? Well, I suppose so, in the same way a shortstop courts danger while planting his feet by second base when a runner from first goes airborne, hurtling toward the shortstop’s vulnerable legs. Or like a basketball player leaping for a rebound, fighting a rival player for the ball, sharp elbows punching face and chest, as she inevitably plummets, intertwined with the other, onto a hardwood floor.

I recall my first—and still only—professional hockey game. As with any sport, there was danger. Those blades on the skates were sharp. The hockey puck, bagel-sized and stone-hard, traveled at breakneck speeds.

So, yes, dangerous. Controlled and chaotic. But, truth be told, I had no idea what was going on. I was there because my wife and I were invited to attend a fundraiser. The hockey team, bless their community outreach efforts, was sponsoring a local non-profit’s work.

Did I have fun? Continue reading →

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Beyond the Boundaries of Speech

Can I avoid politics?

Probably not. (How can one avoid being political, if trying to follow Jesus?)

When—along with a zillion social media users and abusers—I stumbled onto Watson Mere’s 2017 artwork, “My Brother’s Keeper,” my partisan spidey-senses tingled. Its depiction of Martin Luther King Jr. hushing President Trump was blatantly political. As the website Good explained,

The American-born artist of Haitian descent living in Philadelphia created “My Brother’s Keeper” right before the Women’s March—and Martin Luther King Day—in January.

That would be 2017’s January.

With viral intensity, Mere’s image resurfaced in August of 2017 after the clashes between protestors and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. For many, it was also a perfect visual for responding to the President’s alleged—and behind “closed doors”—derogatory January 2018 comments regarding other countries. Those countries included Haiti, where Mere’s parents were born and raised.

  • A women’s march, and a cry for equality.
  • A response to protests centered around hate.
  • Anguish over possible inflammatory language.

Mere’s “My Brother’s Keeper, for current American culture and within the real and imagined perceptions of our global neighborhood, is compelling. And simple. And biased. Two powerful people from different eras, with different values. One white, one black. One is the poster child for American exceptionalism and bluster. The other is a poster child for national humility and nonviolence. And, of course, depending on your political bent and personal beliefs, you will view my conclusions about Trump or King as righteous or wrong. Continue reading →

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