Sometimes I have the experience of reading things I preached a decade or so ago or more (or sometimes even just last week!) and I think "what on earth was I thinking?" But while this sermon was probably too long for a snowy day (they were gracious and kind to hang in there with me all the way through) there is one section of it that I definitely still believe and want to keep preaching. It comes at the end:
I think of our old friend, Frederick Buechner, who as you know defines “vocation” as that place where one’s “deep gladness” meets “the needs of this world.” Surely that is what we—the Church—have affirmed in you since you first began to hear God’s calling to this ministry. I pray that always for you there will be “deep gladness” in this work, for we are all too aware that the needs of both the Church and the world are very great indeed.
I remember when I was ordained that the saddest moments for me were when these older priests would say, “if I had it to do over again I’d find something else.” I know far too many clergy—and you probably do too—who are depressed and unfulfilled in their work. They are not bad people, but they are sad people with long lists of grievances.
So let me say in closing—as an “old veteran” priest—that there is nothing I would rather be doing with my life than to be a priest in Christ’s Church—and in particular to be an Episcopal priest at this time in our still unfolding history. There is no doubt that the work is at times difficult and challenging, but it comes with its own rewards.
And the joy we share with all God’s people goes deeper still than anything else—leading us beyond the Cross and to the empty tomb and to a person—the One whom we keep meeting on the Road to Emmaus, or the Road to Darien. The One whose voice we hear when our hearts burn, and we encounter the Word of the Lord in Holy Scripture. The One whom we beg to stay with us and eat, for evening is at hand. The One whom we see revealed in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.I still feel that way and if it is true that preachers are always talking to themselves, trying to convert themselves, then these words in particular speak to me as I prepare for a new opportunity to serve God and God's people. While the context for my priestly ministry will soon be changing from parish to diocese, I still feel the same way about the work of being a priest: it is still a place where I still feel my own deep gladness intersecting with the needs of the world.
So keep your eyes and your ears and your heart wide open! And keep pointing to Jesus—in your work as preacher, pastor, and priest. Keep pointing to Jesus—and all will be well.
And I still think the work is about pointing beyond ourselves, to Jesus, trusting that "all will be well."