by Ken Sehested
What a day! What a day! Not to mention a year,
4+ decades piled head-to-toe,
some of them a bit fuzzy now
others like constellations whose radiance still
guides during dark nights of the soul.
Little did you know, a half-century ago
when your vocation was gestating,
what your profession would involve, where your
convictions would take you, the joys then unimaginable,
the sorrows ruthless beyond belief. And the
“ordinary” days, the days for which songs are
never composed, for which cakes are never baked,
for which poems are never rhymed nor hymns
inspired, for which hardly anyone
but the Beloved took note.
Scores upon scores of hallelujahs and heartaches, too.
Cares that kept you up at night and joys that set you
moving at the first sight of dawn’s light.
If you could have known then what you know now, would
you have allowed those authorizing hands to be laid
on your head? Would you, instead, have run
screaming from the room, faster than Jonah in a
speedboat, further than Tarshish multiplied many
times over? Bemoaning the day of your birth,
more bitterly than Jeremiah?
Cursing God more boldly than Job, demanding a
grand jury indictment for the Most High?
Might you have sought an easier Gospel to declare— a
compliant, more digestible announcement, something
less thorny, less disturbing to patrons, more likely
to win friends and salutations from chambers of
commerce? How many times have you been
tempted to soften the Word, to something like:
thus recommendeth the Lord?
Would you have preferred a cool breeze and votive candle
to Pentecost’s raging wind and flaming tongues of fire?
Maybe a luxury hotel room to the Nativity’s
barn yard stable? Did another life tempt your fate,
one free of property maintenance, boo birds in
the balcony, last minute panics when there’s not
enough grape juice for communion?
You should be happy to not pull off
another capital campaign.
Wouldn’t it all have been easier if Jesus had turned those
rocks to bread. Or cut a deal with the devil in order to
accomplish salvation’s end? Or to undertake a few
magical feats to pack the sanctuary,
grow the membership, spit-polish that
muddle of a sermon?
What harm could that have done?
But, no. Nooooo.
You knew, down in your toes if not in your head,
that there is no skipping from
the crib to the cross
to the Crown of Glory.
No shortcuts to bypass those ordinary days.
No passing the cup of those agonizing experiences.
No surge protection
against joy’s electrifying arc.
For there is no ordinary in ordination’s destination.
Now, though, receive gladly the permission to lie fallow
on days other than Mondays. Let your appointment
book and dress shoes gather dust. Have a Bloody
Mary for brunch on a Sunday. Linger longer with the
morning paper. Give those grandbabies your
undivided, leisurely attention. Let the
lectionary recede, at least for a while .
Turn off your phone for long periods of time. Be less
wordy, and less worrisome, in your prayer time.
Yet may you continue to live large
laugh often, and
# # #
—commemorating the retirement of Paul Hayes, pastor of Noank Baptist Church, Noank, CT.