Once I never thought about retirement, other than being a good lad and salting away some rainy-day dollars each month for a distant future.
How could I ponder retirement when, on a pre-dawn Sunday morning, the sermon was still making demands? In a few hours the sanctuary seats, cradling innocent-appearing adults and cute children, would be occupied. Every member was a mix of dreams and disappointments. They’d all felt loss (of faith, of loved ones, of a future). And a few, with clenched jaws or fake smiles, hoped today the preacher would say something that made sense.
Or, they were present from habit or the football game was on later or the kids should go to church or the wife had given “the look” and it was far better to get your butt to church after a quick bowl of Cheerios rather than protest.
No, early on Sunday mornings, with an unfinished sermon (and it’s never truly done until the “Amen” hours later after the good news was cast before the beloved, beleaguered, bored, bereft dwellers of the pews), retirement was never a thought.
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 →