A Symbol for Retirement


Entering my third year of retirement, I realized that I have been searching for some way to gain perspective on this time in my life – a lens through which to view it or a symbol to represent it and suggest meaning for it. What is retirement? Obviously, it began with the end of something: my forty-year career in pastoral ministry for which I had begun preparing, more or less, at age twelve when I first declared my intention to become a minister. So, on June 30, 2012, an approximately fifty-four year process in my life concluded, and my wife and I moved for the first time as a couple into a home of our own with no church next door and no church community in which we belonged.

My second-to-last sermon as a pastor I titled, “Called for Life.” The next Saturday, at a farewell picnic given for us by the congregation, my executive presbyter and friend presented me with a book, Called for Life. Something ended but not entirely, concluded but did not close. How am I to understand this paradox? My job was done but my work not finished? I had no appointments, no meetings scheduled, and no position in a local church. I became a “minister of the word” (as I was called at ordination) without a pulpit, a “minister of the word and sacrament” (as I was later renamed) without a communion table or baptismal font, a “teaching elder” (as I was most recently renamed) without a gathering of people with whom to pursue understanding.

I knew what I was retiring from, but what was I retiring to, or do we retire only from something but not to anything?

Symbols, images, metaphors, and similes – these representations express attitudes and understandings but also shape and guide them. Is retirement the head of a trail, the end of the road, both, or neither? I knew what I was retiring from, but what was I retiring to, or do we retire only from something but not to anything?

Continue reading →

The Prophets on Religious Practice and Social Injustice


This post is the second of four written for students on an alternative spring break with the Farm Workers Support Committee here in South Jersey and in eastern Pennsylvania.

There have always been attempts to keep concerns over social injustices separated from religious practice. The “powers that be” have always expected the prevailing religion to support their administration of power, defend their divine right to privilege, and sanctify their programs and social structures.

Israel’s prophets rejected all such notions. For them, worship was never to be separated from God’s will for justice and compassion among the people, and it was the particular responsibility laid upon rulers and people of means to right wrongs and correct injustices.

To the privileged in the north kingdom of Israel, the prophet Amos declares for God:

I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21-24, NRSV)

Continue reading →