Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thanks to Our Father for Making Me A Country Parson

I found this bulletin yesterday, one day after the 18th anniversary of my church voting to call me as pastor, and two days after they honored me at a special service on Sunday morning. My how time flies....I mean how it REALLY flies! This coming April will mark 24 years since I came to Denmark as the church's youth and education and associate pastor.

I am grateful that my Father would allow me the privilege of being a country parson, because that is what I am. The service reminded me of just how much my Father has given me out of His grace and love. I have never deserved the privilege He and my church family has given me of ministering in this town for almost a quarter of a century. Most pastors (statistically speaking) don't stay put in a church for this long, but that means that most pastors don't get to know their people as well as I do. Most pastors don't get to honor high school graduates who he first saw on the days they were born. Most pastors don't get to perform weddings for church members who they first saw on the days they were born.

This summer, in particular, has been extraordinary in its depth of experience. I have officiated at six funerals, assisted in another, went to two more (including the tragic death of one of most beloved day care workers), officiated at two weddings, went to three graduations, spent a week on a mission trip with some of my college students, welcomed a new baby, celebrated 1st birthdays for two more, took pictures at a 90th birthday party, and helped a couple celebrate 60 years of marriage. All this occurred since the first of June.

Am I exhausted? Yes. Am I grateful? YES! Even in tiny, little Denmark, every day there are multiple opportunities to see my Father at work in so many ways...on the mountain tops of joy, and in the valleys of grief and heartache. I have prayed with many people this summer who are grieving the loss of loved ones....and when I say "loved" ones, I mean it. It is a sacred honor to be with brothers and sisters in Christ at those times when they are having to say good-bye to someone they love. It's hard to explain how much I value those conversations with people this summer who knew their time was coming to leave, and how ready they were, and how much they were trusting in the promises of Christ., and how willing they were to tell others. Seeing their peace encouraged me again and again.

This past Sunday was extremely encouraging, too. Those planning the pastor appreciation day knew how awkward it is for me to sit and listen to "appreciation," and they made sure the emphasis was on worshiping our Savior, not me. The speakers, musicians, soloists, choir, and those participating in the children's sermon (entitled: "Things You Don't Know About Andy") encouraged their pastor more than they'll ever know.

So for anyone from my First Baptist Family reading this, THANK YOU for allowing me the great privilege of being your pastor and friend these many years. THANK YOU for allowing me to journey with you through life as we seek to follow Christ. I can think of no better ending words than those of Paul in Phillipians 1:3-6: "I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

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