I wanted to add some jokes to the service today. Not a full Holy Humor Sunday like we did last year, just a few jokes. I’ve tried to bring laughter to our shared ministry and I’d like to laugh this morning with you. Here’s one that I got from a friend. The other 2 later in the service are from Larry.
A minister dies and dressed in his clerical collar and colorful robe and stole, waits in line at the Pearly Gates. Just ahead of him is a guy dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket and jeans.
Saint Peter addresses the guy, “Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you to the Kingdom of Heaven?” The guy replies, “I’m Joe Green, taxi-driver from New York City.” Saint Peter consults his list, smiles, and says to the taxi driver, “Take this silken robe and golden staff, and enter into the Kingdom.” So the taxi driver enters Heaven with his robe and staff.
The minister is next in line. Without being asked, he proclaims, “I am Pastor Michael O’Connor, head pastor of Saint Mary’s for the last 43 years.” Saint Peter consults his list and says, “Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” “Just a minute”, says the pastor, “that man was a taxi driver, and you issued him a silken robe and golden staff. But I get wood and cotton. How can this be?”
“Up here, we go by results,” said Saint Peter. “While he drove, people prayed – while you preached, people slept.”
I haven’t caught many of you sleeping over the years…only one. I don’t know if I’ll get a silken robe and golden staff, but I am hopeful that I got you to pray as often as the taxi driver got his passengers to pray.
A common metaphor for the spiritual life is a journey. I’m not sure if we get that metaphor from the Gospel of Luke, but, for Luke, he tells his gospel as parts of a journey. We’ve been in the Gospel of Luke since before Christmas. We’ve journeyed with the characters of the Gospel since before the birth of Jesus to this story after His death. Mary journeyed to see Elizabeth. Mary and Joseph journeyed to Nazareth. The Holy Family journeyed to Galilee. They journeyed with pilgrims to the Temple. Jesus journeyed through Galilee calling Disciples to journey with Him. He and His followers journey to Jerusalem. He journeys to the cross. This story of Emmaus is the final journey of Jesus and His followers.
There is a saying a good friend told me many years ago. She said people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. They journey with you for a short time for a reason. They journey with you for a season of learning and growing together or they journey with you for a lifetime. I think a pastor is one who is called to journey with you for a season of learning and growing together.
I think our journey together has been one of healing. I want to share with you a little bit that I shared with the Pastoral Relations committee during our exit interview. When I came to you I was hurting. I had spent the previous 6 months considering leaving ministry. I wasn’t sure about coming to Bethany – I just needed out of my last church. You loved me back into ministry. You allowed me to heal from the wounds inflicted by my last ministry. You showed me grace as I grew and preached some really bad sermons. You allowed me to learn how to be a leader and were willing to try new things with me.
I think our time together has been healing for you as well. I think your wounds had started to heal with Rev. Anderson. We’ve had some fun together, shared some laughs, gathered for fellowship and now you’re more trusting of pastoral leadership than you were and you trust one another more. You have fun together and I think you do truly love each other. I was so glad to see that the way you wanted to celebrate our time together was a party with the intention of fellowship and laughter.
The part of the party that I enjoyed most was watching you all work together and hearing you laugh together, even more than chicken and green beans, as tasty as they were. After the party, Nancy said that the party was a sign of how well the new structure is working. She said that everyone just pitched in and helped get things together and get things cleaned up. I hope she can still say that after the refreshments at the Easter Cantata and the Easter sunrise breakfast. I know it seems like a long road to get to this point where you see that this new way of doing things is working.
In the old structure, I saw cliques of friends chairing a committee and their friends serving on that committee until the committee chairperson changed committees and the committee members followed. That didn’t apply to everyone, but there was a lot of cliquishness in the committee work. Today, I see everyone involved in the different ministries of the church. I have seen people serve in ministries across the whole church, not just one particular area. I know it’s been difficult to get here and difficult to find language to replace the familiar committee name. I think at the party we saw more teamwork than committee work, but the words team and committee don’t really capture what’s going on here. I think the best way to describe the work being done is ministry.
Scott often asks, “Tell me the story of a life changed by the ministry of the church.” Well, my life has been changed. You have been the conduit of God’s healing grace. You have been great partners in ministry. It has been a great honor to be invited into your homes, to officiate your wedding, to preside at your loved ones’ funerals, to lead the liturgy as you dedicate your children to the care and fellowship of this church. I had fallen out of love with the church; you made me fall in love again.