Rev It Up
reflections on faith and life
Rev. Kathryn Timpany,
First Congregational UCC, Sioux Falls, SD
February 11, 2015
“Every ending a beginning…” – Paul Simon, “Darling Lorraine”
As most of you know by now, I am wrapping up my time with you as one of your pastors and teachers. Your responses to this news have touched me deeply. This moment feels mostly like an ending, and one that we weren’t able to orchestrate. Illness set the time table for us. We are left to be the first responders of a sort. Some of us are better in that role than others, but we are all in this together.
And so, as with all endings, there is the damp sadness of grief, which is as it should be when people have become closely attached and deeply invested on one another. It is not easy to be ending my ministry with you, because I have enjoyed our time together immensely. I am also deeply thankful to have served such a faithful church. Not everyone who feels called to pastoral ministry has such a good time fulfilling that call.
But this is also a beginning, the start of a new phase of life, with all its bright possibilities spangling our hopes. Our church was gathered 143 years ago, and I have been with you for a mere ten of those years. As my father, who spent 40 years as the choir director of his church, has often reminded me: pastors come and go, but the people of the church will still be there. I look forward to watching you continue your journey of faith, and wonder what celebrations you will share when another ten years has elapsed.
I have always liked the metaphor “journey” for understanding how faith intersects with human lives. Faith is not a static thing you acquire once and for all but rather a pliable process that changes shape as it adapts to our lives as they unfold over time. I have always loved road trips, especially those taken on little-used roads through seldom-seen countryside, but I have lived most of my public life on a superhighway, enjoying the speed and the amount of ground that can be covered quickly and efficiently. I haven’t always lived in the passing lane, but have enjoyed moving right along with the traffic on the easier roads of ministry.
I have not been very patient when occasional minor misfortunes have made me pull over to the shoulder – until the tire could be changed or the gas tank refilled. I knew patience was an under-developed virtue in me. And now, here I am. Sitting for months on the shoulder of the highway with major engine failure, watching the other cars whiz by and the seasons of the year with them. Learning much more patience than I ever thought I needed.
As has happened so many times before, you are the ones who are my guides and teachers now. During the last ten years I have seen many of you struggle with circumstances like this. Sudden illness, injury, betrayal, despair, divorce, unexpected death – you have had your lives forever changed, and I have been honored to witness and sometimes accompany you when the future you imagined shattered and fell in shards all around you. I have watched how grace has found you and lavished you with holy love. I have been with you as you have learned to accept a whole new life and bid the old one a gracious goodbye.
Now, I am the one experiencing radical change, and I look to you for hope and do my best to soak up your hard-earned wisdom as I wait for full healing to come abide with me. The gift of your trust as you have shared your stories with me over the years is now leading me on the journey of faith.
Many of you have asked how you can help. Since the healing I seek requires balancing rest and activity in short segments, you are already doing the best thing – surrounding me with concentric circles of love and care. Your cards and emails and prayers have been most welcome. Staying in touch helps me endure the isolation that is part of my journey right now.
The future stretches long before us. We cannot see the details, but we live with the confidence that has come from our experience as a people of God. We trust that the next chapter will be as satisfying as it is now inscrutable. We will have joy and sorrow, peace and struggle, pain and ecstasy, just like we have had in the past. And because we are a people of the God we catch a glimpse of in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, our future will be full of challenge and courage, compassion and grace. This God we worship loves to create new life every time we think death is permanent.
Thank you for sharing the journey with me!
may spring come sooner than you think