Right down to the real nitty gritty...

Today in worship - and afterwards - we said farewell to two of our congregation's beloved saints:  Fran and Luther.  They are in their late 80s and have realized the time has come to be closer to family in Florida.  So they sold their mountain-side farm and are heading South at the end of this month. Both have been sources of inspiration, wisdom, healing and hope to our sometimes wounded but loving faith community - and they will be sorely missed.

To be sure, it is the right decision, but it still creates an ache within my heart - and a hole within our community that will echo for some time to come.  Luther is a poet and preacher - a theologian of the old school who has kept up to date with what's going on throughout the church better than preachers half his age.  He is a man of wisdom and grace.  In the renewal work I have been called to shepherd, he has been an active supporter, a cherished critic when things got off track and a trusted colleague.  From the get go he has called me "his pastor," which means more to me than words can express. And he has always helped me as I have tried to get grounded in our new home. 

It was Pentecost - a good day for celebrations - so we used one of Luther's favorite writers, Walter Wangerin's "Rag Man" drama as the heart of worship. My friends Brian, John, Ethan, Heather and Dianne brought the drama to life and I am grateful for their help this day, too. I kept thinking of the "death and dying: class that Luther and I led together two years ago at Lent; during that time Wangerin announced that he had inoperable cancer.  We have both loved his work and found ourselves moved by his faithful embrace of this last journey into God's grace.  We also taught a challenging Walter Breuggeman series this Lent together, too. 

At the close of worship, before we sang Luther's favorite hymn, "Be Thou My Vision," I shared a few words of love and encouragement with the congregation and then Luther shared a few thoughts, too.  When he returned to his seat, this quintessential Yankee - noble, understated and wise - started to sob in his wife's embrace for he has been beloved within and among us. I will miss them both in ways that cannot be named and give thanks to God for a chance to serve with him for the past 3 1/2 years.  It is clear, too, that I will not see either of them until this life is over and we meet on the other side of glory.  In so many ways today we got right down to the real nitty gritty...

And now I am finishing some details before we head off to Istanbul with the Jazz Ambassadors tomorrow.  There are a few errands to complete, a few messages to write to our kids who will be house/dog sitting while we share music in Turkey and few final details to take place in packing.  In reading Joseph Dispenza's little book, The Way of the Traveler, last night I was reminded of how valuable it is to bring our hosts a small sign of our friendship and gratitude.  So I spent the afternoon getting some little gifts in the hope that they will help suggest how grateful we are for their trust and support.

There has been so much to do to get ready for this pilgrimage - and soon it will come to pass. Dispenza writes:

Medieval cathedrals were designed with the concept of the approach foremost in the minds and hearts of the builders. We look at a magnificent cathedral from above - seeing it as a bird sees it - as a cross with the entrance at the foot and the place of the unfolding mysteries deep inside - at the crossing. From the cathedral's entrance to the crossing is a long walk to the heart of faith:  the approach... Other civilizations have also made the processional an indispensable part of every holy ceremony...Mayan, Aztec and Toltec... Egypt... Rome and Greece... because mov8ing in the direction of the destination has been profoundly significant.

Tomorrow we meet to load equipment, hoist a few shots and head off to JFK knowing that even the procession transforms us...

Comments

Black Pete said…
Journey well and journey safely, dear brother and sister, dear friends.

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