The Postlude of Ministry
[Pastor Lugn delivered this as a part of a dialogue sermon. We have adapted it for Pietisten. — Ed.]
You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. Luke is the only one here with me. Bring Mark with you. God’s looking after me, keeping me safe in the kingdom of heaven. All praise to Him forever. Oh, yes. (A paraphrase from II Timothy 4).
It would be noble to say this in the postlude of our vocation and life. For me, as I grow older—am older—the postlude is very real. I realize that life is abundantly full of saying "hello" and "good-bye" many times and in many places.
The Good-byes are more traumatic!
What happens to us—any of us—in the postlude of life? The passages of life are very real! Memories filter in and out of the mind and heart. However, there are moments of quiet confidence when we remember that we are not alone. Though often lonely, I was never alone.
The heritage I shared was fruitful, painful, and challenging. I knew moments of celebrations and moments of wondering if I "blew it." Did I say the right word, do the right deed, respond in a wholesome fashion?
Still, it is good to be confident in what has really "grown" me in life. The yesterdays do not melt and fade away as if no lives were lived or deeds done.
It is good to know in the twilight and the dawn that we came from someplace, shared life with many different persons, knew the companionship of those whose insight and support was a "communion of saints," and were disciplined by those who challenged us.
I knew the struggles of the mind and spirit in trying to give birth to new ideas and in learning to appreciate spiritual adventures that broke new ground. I remember the high moments of ministry: The times of wondering what the next step should be; moments of Epiphany experiences; times of laying hands on the kneeling confirmands robed in white; of holding a baby for the baptism of water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; sensing the joy of the parents and family. I remember the times of breaking the Bread and holding the Cup in the Lord’s Supper, saying, "Do this in remembrance of me." I remember the sacred awareness of death and grief as we laid a loved one to rest—"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."
I grew through all these experiences: Through relationships with all sorts and conditions of persons—people with scars and blemishes, through smiles and handclasps, prayers and generosity. The postlude time remembers the dreams and hopes of our lives together.
Perhaps "time and tide wait for no man," but we read the seasons with expectation and hope. It is for me, for us, to know the risks and promises in our fragile walk through the world. The time comes when we pass the mantle to others, even as it has always been.
I will bless the good-byes of life. I will be one who willingly says, "You take over." I know the day is moving toward twilight. The hearing and the seeing are no longer sharp; the memory falters. The mantle belongs to Luke and Mark and Timothy. It belongs to all those today who serve the new and remember the old.
They will bring me the cloak for the cold of winter. They will bring the Book and the books for the feeding of my soul. I will be confident, in the twilight, for what has been and in those who follow. The Lord is with us in the tomorrows as he was in the past.
Remember that I appreciated the travelling and the companionship. I sang the old songs and you will sing the old and new songs of Zion. We are ready for the young servants of the Lord to minister to us. They will keep our aging minds and spirits alive, real, and true. And there are also the Priscillas and Aquilas in the church, in this church and in all the churches. I have known many of them.
Well, Timothy, come and see me. We’ll talk about what was and is and will be!
The benediction is for new beginnings; the postlude is to send us forth. Did you know that?
The Lord be with your spirit. Amen.