I love being retired. I have my time with the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry and my teaching at Olli at UConn's Waterbury branch and my participation in leading Making a Difference Workshops for the Mastery Foundation a few times a year. Other than that, my time is my own. What a joy. I read five books a week. I dabble in writing. I do this blog. I sleep until I wake up. I eat when I'm hungry. I hang around and bother Bern. I go to movies. I am very fortunate that the Church Pension Fund and Social Security and MACM pay me more money than I deserve. In 2012, for example, my income was greater than I ever made working full time as a priest....Imagine that and ponder how wondrous my retirement is.
But as I approach the anniversary of my retirement, I feel a twinge of nostalgia for the 20+ years I spent as Rector of St. John's, Waterbury. Until the last 3 years, those were the best years of my life.
In celebration, I want to share with you my Sermon Last. The final sermon out of well over a thousand sermons and homilies and reflections at St. John's. I'd estimate somewhere around 2500 on Sundays and Wednesdays and Holy Days. And this is the one I feel best about, feel most completed with, honor most.
Sometimes 'the last' is the best.
So I share it with you, two weeks or so before the third anniversary of its preaching.
THE LAST DANCE/DEEP IN THE OLD MAN’S PUZZLE
In one of Robertson Davies’ novels, someone asks an aging priest how, professing to be a holy man, he could devour a whole chicken and a bottle of wine at dinner. The priest answers:
“I am quite a wise old bird, but I am no desert hermit who can only prophesy when his guts are knotted in hunger. I am deep in the Old Man’s Puzzle, trying to link the wisdom of the body with the wisdom of the spirit until the two are one.
In my two decades in your midst, I have feasted on Joy and Sorrow, on the Wondrous and the Mundane, trying always to link the wisdom of the body to the wisdom of the Spirit…Deep in the Old Man’s Puzzle….
A few years ago, for our anniversary I gave Bern a drawing by an artist named Heather Handler. It has a weird looking tree on it and these words:
“Sit with me on hilltops, under trees and beneath the skies.
Then speak softly and tell me the story, once again,
About why we met, and how someday we’ll fly….”
That sentiment was about our relationship—Bern’s and mine—and it also speaks to me and you and our shared ministry and our relationship in this place for over twenty years.
Today—this day—is our ‘last dance’. Friday we will part. I will go my way and you will go your way. And both ways are full of hope and joy and not a little anxiety and unknown wonders. Both ways lead to this: they lead us deeper into the Old Man’s Puzzle and they lead us to flying….
There is no doubt in my mind that “why we met” was because of the will and the heart of God. But when I came here, I could not have ever imagined staying so long. And now that I am leaving, I cannot imagine leaving so soon.
Yet I know this—we, you and I, will soon learn how to fly.
Today we sit on the hilltop, beneath the sky and speak softly.
And then we part, you and I. The last dance always ends. And the future lies ahead, beckoning, inviting, always to be created….
I cannot thank you enough. I cannot thank you completely. There are not enough words—though I am a man of many words—to give that thanks in a way that matters.
Instead, I will bless you.
And these are my words of blessing: VOCATUS ATQUE NON VOCATUS, DEUS ADERIT….That means this: “Bidden or unbidden, God is present….”
Whether we call upon God or not—God is always there…profoundly there…totally there…here…and now….
I leave you, as I found you, with God in your midst and deep in the Old Man’s Puzzle.
You have let me be a part of that for these years. God was here when I arrived and God guided us—you and me—on our journey together…and God waits, ready and glorious, to lead you on as I leave and to lead me on as you stay here.
And there is this: God will teach us how to fly….And puzzle us more and more.
I love you. I adore you. I will miss you more than you imagine…more than you CAN imagine. And I bless you and thank you.
Keep trying, in every way possible, to link the wisdom of the body—WHAT YOU DO—to the wisdom of the Spirit—WHO YOU ARE.
And start trying out your wings……
April 25, 2010