In his book, “Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life”, Eugene Peterson writes… “In the letters Paul wrote, there are 53 references to the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is the event that sets and keeps in motion the entire gospel enterprise… In other words, this is not a future resurrection but a present resurrection- which is what we are interested right now.”
You can take a few moments to check out 6 of these resurrection citations, related ton present and ongoing spiritual formation… The point? The resurrection is something that followers of Jesus are interested in right now. (see Romans 6:4, 8:11; Ephesians 2:6; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 2:12; 3;1).
The last passage, from Colossians 3:1-2, reads: “So, if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, be alert to what is going on in Christ – that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.”
Leading the observances and celebrations, the deeply moving commemorations of Holy Week and Easter, has been my privilege for 38 years of ordained ministry. I still remember the first Sunrise Service I preached in Spotswood, NJ, in a special spot right on the lake in town. What I remember most about that service is that in the middle of my attempts to preach an Easter sermon, Canada geese kept landing right behind me on the lake. My sermon probably wasn’t that memorable anyway, but what is most memorable for me I remember is everyone on the shoreline looking right past me, with heads and eyes following the geese, down, down, down, ‘til I heard the next “splash”!!!
From that first Easter til now, 38 years later, it has been a great privilege for Gabriele and me to be part of a community of faith each Lent-Easter-Eastertide. My faith has changed and deepened in important ways, our circle of friends-in-Christ has broadened so that we feel as if we have connections all over the world, the varieties of music used to observe and celebrate has ranged from Dixieland Jazz’s “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” to Brahms Requiem. There are hundreds and hundreds who have shared with me in the readings and in the singing and in the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup!
I cannot possibly thank everyone now, except in letters like this, but I have tried to share my gratitude along the way. You have joined together with me in this ‘experiment in ministry’ over these past 7 years at DCC and I am very grateful.
GWhen I came to you, though I worked hard not to show it, I was a bit depleted from the day in and day out stresses and strains of pastoral ministry and administrative responsibilities for 30 years. Working together in this community of faith, and in the larger community, my energy and creativity has been restored, and I feel completely different… much, much the better… about my competencies and leadership abilities over the span of decades in which I have been privileged to live out my calling!
In these next months we have together, we will pave the way for new pastoral leadership here at DCC. Your Staff-Parish Relations Committee and I have been working pretty hard to assure transitional success. Rev. Heather Valosin and I will begin regular meetings to share ideas and information that will be helpful for my leaving and her coming to live among you.
What can you do to help? Pray that the Spirit continues to work here in our life together, assuring everyone of our ongoing commitment to the missions and ministries we hold dear!
I have been thinking quite about the energy and creativity of ministry that was generated when I was in my 30’s, as Pastor Heather is now. And I can only wish for her the generative and creative movement of the Spirit that I enjoyed in those days. We were involved in the community in many different ways, interacting with a whole different set of people because we had young children! PTA, Scouts, class-trips, soccer clubs, softball teams, school activities that naturally rubbed our shoulders with those of younger families…. It was an engaging and energetic time in my life and in the life of the Carll family.
I have a strong hunch that it will be that way here at DCC! Younger families, naturally attracted to preaching and worship representing a different generational perspective. Heather will be relating to peers on the staff who are in the same generation…. Janice, YK, and Kim. And I sense that the potential is exciting!
I will do all that I can to work with SPRC, and a Transition Team, to set the tone, make the way clear and unimpeded for Pastor Heather to share the special gifts she has already discovered, and pursue her calling by Christ, into ordained ministry and the leadership responsibilities here at DCC.
In closing, I share again the Yogi Berra ‘stuff ‘that shaped my retirement letter to you last August…. When Yogi was in the World Series managing the Mets, the team was down by a few runs and he gathered them together in the dugout, famously urging them to get out there and win it. He said, “It isn’t over ‘til its over!”
Let’s fill the days ahead with good things: celebrating our life-together with baptisms, graduations, weddings, and, best of all, times together celebrating Holy Communion, at the table of the Grace and Wholeness!
Deep peace pure green of the budding flowers to you… Pastor Ed
If you are searching for some good post-Easter Resurrection reading, I whole-heartedly recommend some of my favorite Eugene Peterson books to you, all related to the Easter stories and narratives in the Christian Scriptures:
“Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life" © 2006, Eugene H. Peterson, Navpress, Colorado Springs, CO
“Tell It Slant”: A Conversation on the language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers © 2008, Eugene Peterson, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO
“Practice Resurrection: a Conversation on Growing Up in Christ” © 2010, Eugene Peterson, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO
So goes the first stanza of one of the most beloved hymns Natalie Sleeth ever imagined! (#707 UM Hymnbook). And at some point in the singing, every fiber in me reverberates with gratitude for the mystery of God’s resurrecting…
“In our end is our beginning, in our time, infinity;
in our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity.
In our death a resurrection, at the last a victory,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”
Last fall, as we gathered to dedicate the Memorial/Prayer Garden, it wasn’t more than a few minutes before several people were thinking the same thought:
“We should have our Easter Morning Resurrection fire right here!”
It’s a perfect place to gather, filled with memories of loved ones (for Shirley Vose, Kris and Gus Hollstein and family, the Szabo family); and it represents DCC at one of it’s most collaborative moments since the church building was constructed nearly 60 years ago. It is a lasting tribute to the value of working together for months and months, an aspiring Eagle Scout, Nick Penkrat, and a grateful spouse, Shirley Vose, with an unfulfilled desire to remember her husband Don, with deep gratitude for his having filled her life with love .
And so, as the Lenten season gives way for the Easter celebrations, we will gather in the Resurrection Garden! And I easily imagine it will be one of the best Easter mornings I have ever celebrated.
The Easter Sunrise services this year will also signal an ending and a new beginning in my life. After 38 years of ordained ministry, which includes being responsible for congregational worship-life, it will be the last time collaborating on all of the worship ideas, resurrection songs, and pulling it all together for the day! Have all the brass players been asked to play?
How beautiful will the chancel and altar be for our Resurrection celebrations? Will all the acolytes show up as scheduled? Will the worship readers practice their parts, so that the pace and rhythm is inviting and evocative of our best Resurrected selves? How many choir members will stay for both the 9:30 and 11:30 worship? Can I keep the timing of my Easter meditation and our celebration of Communion just right?
The middle verse of the “Hymn of Promise” describes the promise of every Easter morning… and every other morning we are given…
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody,
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come our future, what it holds a mystery,
Unrevealed until it’s season, something God alone can see.
With another 4 weeks of the Lenten season left to prepare for Resurrection, I am eager to complete the sermon and worship series, focused on “Deadly Sins and Saving Virtues”.
With just a few more months left until we part DCC for retirement, I am looking forward to celebrating several more baptisms, privileged to preside at YoungKwang and Sooah’s wedding in May, a little nervous to be thinking about a “retirement dinner and celebration”, filled with anticipation in relinquishing my pastoral responsibilities to Rev. Heather Valosin, hope-filled about sharing with her some of my visions for DCC’s future, and getting ‘psyched up’ with thoughts of what retirement will hold for Gabriele and me!
As the Lenten roses (hellebores) are already working to push their blooms through winter’s hardened ground to new life, let’s use our energy to first enjoy and then burst through these last days of winter into God’s promised spring of gladness!
Deep peace pure gray of the winter skies to you…
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