July 16, 2017 – Proper 10
Letters Home (from a retired pastor to his family, the Church)
Retiring is a strange land for many of us. After working decades and looking toward the moment when our time becomes our own, the reality can feel reminiscent of graduating from high school. Many of us can remember the initial thrill of a long summer before us with no mandatory school obligations beyond. For some it did not take long for that sense of freedom to be replaced with something else. That something was the nagging question, “What’s next?” This was usually followed by “What am I to do?”, “Who am I to become?” “What is the right and best thing to do?” It came as a surprise to me that I found myself right back with the same post high school questions weighing on my heart and mind a few months after retiring from my last parish. Maybe some of you have had similar experiences. What I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the experience of these questions is shared by young and old alike.
Knowing and understanding what to do! Sounds simple enough. The truth is it’s anything but simple. When you add the desire to understand the why to the what, the discernment process becomes exponentially more complex. Do we take this job, or that one? Do we ask this person to marry us, or do we continue to go it alone? Which school should I attend? Should I have a latte with half and half, go for the skim milk, or pass on the caffeine all together? Should I spend more time focusing on my health, or decide I am simply too busy to worry about it? Every one of these questions has an impact on the course of our future, our happiness, and our health. They also have an effect on our spiritual life. Each choice leads us closer or farther away from the person we have been created to be, and the service we were created to render.
Sometimes it feels as if these questions lay their head on my pillow each night. They are most often there waiting for me when I awake. What is the right and best path to take at any moment in any of our lives?
After almost seven decades on this earth, I have given up looking for something like Google Maps direction for the best life. Instead three landmarks have proven to be the best guides for me. These landmarks are to love God the Creator of All, love my neighbor, and to love the community of spiritual companions who have attached themselves to Jesus Christ. None of these landmarks by themselves give specific instructions in any given situation. They do give three reference points on the map of life. For a sailor at sea this would be enough to navigate the changing environment and help them avoid the hidden obstacles around them. Of course I have made many mistakes along the way, but over all, my faith tells me navigating by these three compass points has guided me a little bit closer to the path God has called me to take.
There are not many of us who feel as if they have absolute clarity in dealing with the choices life brings their way. Most of us have to struggle, weigh and balance, and take risks to find our way. Those who take discerning the right and best way to serve and love God, neighbor, and community seriously, welcome any help offered. That is why this Sunday we make our prayer …
Proper 10 (The Sunday closest to July 13)
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP 231)