Bag of Randomness for Monday, March 4, 2019

 

  • This post may have the title of a “Bag of Randomness” but it’s not going to contain much randomness. It will focus on my retiring pastor, I’m just too lazy and not creative enough to come up with a title. This post is more for me, not you. It’s a bit like therapy, a chance for me to think through the past and to embrace another change, another season in my life.
  • I’ll be honest. While I love and admire Dale, I don’t think I had as personal or as close a relationship with him as I hoped. That’s not a fault of his. I’m an introvert and created some boundaries for myself. However, I don’t think I’ve been as transparent and open with another pastor. I love how he made me feel comfortable to express my thoughts, and while we may have disagreed about certain things, unlike many other pastors I’ve encountered, I never felt he judged me. He some ways he was a father figure to me. He was and is resolute in the faith. But perhaps the highest compliment I can give him is that he made me want to be a better man after every encounter.
  • I always thought Dale had a gifted with a great voice. He’s no James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman, but he had a good preacher’s voice if that makes any sense.
  • I notice a lot of little things about Dale I’m not sure others do. For instance, he parks furthest away from the church. Some pastors have a saved or designated parking spot close to the entrance. Dale, in an act of humbleness and maybe servitude. His flock got the better park spots and he always gets a chance to “walk the halls” and be accessible. I also loved how he always stood at the door as everyone left, providing an opportunity to be accessible and shake hands. You don’t see that at megachurches in the area, and I’m afraid that’s all which will be around in the next 20 years.
  • I didn’t think I would cry, but a surprise at the end of the service got me. A lot of people in the area have complained about how the surrounding area is full of people from India. The demographics have changed dramatically in the past ten years. In a leadership meeting, Dale once mentioned how many churches pull up stakes and move to another neighborhood. He said that was an option, but also said we could choose to minister to those God has brought to the neighborhood. A church of Indians who have accepted Christ was seeking a building for worship services and Dale made things work out so they could use our building. There was a split in their church but a good number of them have stayed. To honor Dale and his wife, towards the end of the service, they honored both of them in a special Indian custom, placing garments and flowers on them. They addressed the congregation. It didn’t matter to anyone that their English was tough to understand, we could see their appreciation on their face and in the tone of their voice. I had no idea they valued him as much as they did.
  • He and his wife will donate their bodies to a local medical school. The first time I hear of that being done was when my driver’s education teacher mentioned it while driving around Mineral Wells. The second was reading an obituary about a former college professor and it stated in doing so “he was a teacher until the end”. I think that’s a very noble thing to do.
  • When we first started to attend this church, it had two services, a traditional one in which he wore a black robe and classic hymns were sung, and then a contemporary one with more modern church music and he was sans robe. Eventually, we simply started to have one worship service and he never wore the robe. Yesterday, he wore the robe, it was a nice touch. And, in an act of symbolism, he removed it when he stepped off the altar for the last time as pastor of our church.
    • I learned the robe is actually called a Geneva gown. The roots go back to John Calvin who suggested clergy to wear one, in all black. It’s supposed to show a lack of personality because the attention should not be on the person, but God, and it was an observance of the law and education. Later, a stole was added as a symbol of the yoke of Christ. Later, for those with a doctorate, you would see stripes on the sleeve, and that’s mostly for purity and vanity.
      • Our pastor’s grandkids were visiting from out of town and it was the first time any of them have seen him wearing the Geneva gown. One said he looked like Darth Vadar.
  • I learned a few “celebrities” have worshiped in the church or were members, such as Steve Pelluer and Russell Maryland. Dan Dean of “Phillips Craig and Dean” and Chuck Swindoll had a powerful moment together. But the most interesting was Janine Turner who visited when ‘Northern Exposure’ was popular. Her mother was a member and there was a certain member who was absolutely smitten by her.
  • His last two sermons were title “Baccalaureate and Commencement” and “Benediction”. The former was more of a traditional sermon and goodbye, focusing on Paul’s goodbye and charge, his baccalaureate address to the Ephesians. The latter felt like a trip down memory lane and thank you, with the focus still being on Paul.
    • He started off by telling us that “baccalaureate” means nothing more than a bachelor’s degree, by definition, but it has taken on the notion of a farewell ceremony such as leaving high school or leaving college. It’s like a Christian service for graduates. There is also a thing called a “commencement service”. They happen much more than they should – preschool, kindergarten, high school. They all relate to conferring of a degree, diploma, an acknowledgment of moving on to something new, the beginning of a new chapter. His sermon was his baccalaureate and commencement to the church he founded more than three decades ago.
    • “I’m going to try to draw some parallels between my life and ministry here at Hackberry Creek Church and the Apostle Paul throughout his ministry but certainly to the Ephesians. However, I cannot compare the joys and challenges of my 30-year pastorate here among you with the hell that Paul went through repeatedly throughout his ministry. One of the slim analogies; however, is that Paul and I did not only seek Jesus Christ but to make him known to any who would listen.”
    • “Now, I have been rebuked, I’ve been challenged, there have been times when I’ve been misrepresented or lied about. I’ve never been beaten, or stoned, or left for dead in the middle of the road like Paul had on too many occasions.”
    • “So the reason Paul is leaving Ephesus is that he’s awaiting a showdown. He’s been forwarned by God that it’s not going to be a retirement celebration at some fancy golf club. Instead, it’s going to be a painful confrontation. The reason I’m leaving is to visit my grandkids, ride my motorcycle, I’m going to sit and worship Sunday mornings beside my wife for the whole service, basically the first time in almost 40 years.”
    • Theologically, many of you, especially those in Baptist and Evangelical related circles, will disagree with this statement; and, I’m sure you can produce a plethora amount of scripture and scholarly material to support your belief and convictions. Let’s save that for another time for a constructive conversation, but I found much comfort in it as a recovering-Baptist and a somewhat onboard reformer.
      • “Now, I am a Reformed Christian. I’m a Presbyterian, and, believe it or not, that has some effect not only on my view of who God is, but what are my responsibilities toward that God as a follower of Jesus Christ. In some Christian circles; however, not in mine, but in some Christian circles of thought, there is a notion that if you fail to do your duty to bear witness to Christ, that somehow other people’s lives are not their responsibility, but your responsibility. In other words – their souls are on your back. Hear me, I do believe that we are duty-bound to share the hope of Christ with all the world, to share that hope with anyone in earshot. I do believe that. but neither is another person’s soul attributed to my effectiveness, my faithfulness, or my failures. You see, there’s only one life, one soul, for whom I’m responsible, and that’s this one [points to himself]. And that’s true for you too.”
    • “Now, 31 years here, there are things that I have done well as the pastor of this church, and there are things that I freely confess that not only have I botched up, I was just wrong. I failed.  I am probably more familiar with those than you are, successes and failures. And I’m sorry for those where I’ve faltered, disappointed you, or failed. But let there be no mistake, I have told you about Jesus Christ. I told you about the hope of the world, and that is your only hope. It’s your response. Anyone’s response is on their back and no one else’s. I haven’t always been at peace with that but I am now. I’m at peace with my failures and my successes.”
    • “Effective March 6th my pastoral duties and office will end. Why is that is because the rationale behind that is to honor the office and the authority of the incoming pastor and not to undermine the proper line of authority, and it’s a good thing. Because there are occasions when that has not worked well for a church and I pray it doesn’t happen here. Weddings, funerals, baptisms, all matters pertaining to professional ministry, the duties of a pastor – those are not mine, those are the Reverend Jonathan Tony’s. He is the pastor, not me. I will honor that and I asked you to do likewise. I will send a letter out this week to the members of Hackberry Creek Church and to our friends reminding us of this transitional necessity. I must decrease he must increase. I will not be worshipping at Hackberry Creek Church for at least six months. Grace Presbytery has been more than generous by modifying their policy of one to two years and said we think the relationship between you and John going to be very good and so you will discern what’s best but for 6 months. I will not be here if there is some matter that may cause you to say, “Oh, Dale would do it better or I wonder what Dale will think about that ?” You need to. Be glad because it’ll probably be better. Please do not seek my consultation because I will not give it. In fact, I will refer you back to the pastor or the Session. So, if you do seek out my opinion, to do so will make us both uncomfortable and perhaps embarrassed. My friendships, my relationships with you, with discretion and respect to the church, and its pastor, my friendships will continue I suspect for a lifetime.” 
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1 Response to Bag of Randomness for Monday, March 4, 2019

  1. Bryan B. says:

    I’m surprised no one else has commented on this. I really enjoyed this post and think it’s great that you took time to celebrate your pastor’s retirement. I have a handful of friends in the ministry or that have worked in ministry and I think your post brings a great spotlight to the highs and lows. Congratulations to your outgoing pastor and kudos to his support of the incoming pastor.

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