Au revoir, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye.
I’ve been the pastor at Lakeside United Methodist Church for 20 years. I’ve written many Insights columns for the Berrien County Association of Churches, about one every 6-8 weeks. And this is the last one.
On Monday, I will retire as a pastor, and in the United Methodist way of doing things will become a layperson again.
Am I ready to retire? I should be, since I was 62 before I answered God’s very insistence call to this position.
Physically I’m ready, but mentally I’m not, and I can’t yet discern what the Holy Spirit is saying.
Nonetheless, it will happen as I lead worship and preach my final sermon as their pastor. Then, we’ll have a party.
You would think I should have a whole stack of learnings from this experience. I can only think of a few. So here goes:
God is way, way bigger than we humans can think. Our perceived God is but a shadow of the immensity of the Lord God of the universe.
My favorite statement about him comes from a little paperback book I acquired in the 1980s called “Mister God, This Is Anna.” Anna, a precocious 6 year old, told her friend that when we study God to know more about the Divine, we “know God less!” The more we know, the more we know how little we know.
And yet, we experience God in many ways in our personal lives. God knows me. (Oh, and you, too.)
God uses the Holy Spirit to “connect the dots” of our lives so they form a picture of who God sees us to be – not necessarily who we see ourselves to be.
When I was in my 40s and 50s, I refused to even consider being a pastor. No gifts and graces, I said. But God was preparing the way, even having me lose my last job in industry so I would be open to the call.
Learning No. 2: People react to you as you react to them. The worst attitude I can take is, “I know it all.” I’m prone to that, but God, through the Spirit and some folks who have guided me, have shown me the best results come when you turn folks free to do what they are led to do.
It might not be what you would do, and it might be messier than necessary, but it gets done.
Learning No. 3: The church is what you make it. Now I serve a very small church, stable but tiny. The people do what they can to keep it going.
For many years, we held a summer rummage sale at church. It involved every person, their relatives and friends plus some absolute strangers. The income helped the church survive. A few folks became members. But the fellowship and the feeling of shared accomplishment has not been lost.
Finally, God is with us, God is faithful. Most of the problems churches face are caused by believing God won’t come through this time, so we better take control.
Money issues are at the top of this list. We believe in the Doctrine of Scarcity, not the Doctrine of Abundance.
Jesus, in Luke 6:38, says: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion – packed down, firmly shaken and overflowing – will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”
How many of us expect that to be true?
So, until we meet again, so long, farewell and goodbye.
Today’s Insights was written by the Rev. George Lawton, retiring pastor of Lakeside United Methodist Church. Insights is written by area clergy to give different viewpoints on a variety of topics. It is published each Saturday in cooperation with the Berrien County Association of Churches. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of member churches.