CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
Yesterday I experienced another “dumb Sabbath.”
It is a phrase of early American Methodist Francis Asbury, one I learned of only recently from Dr. John Wilkey, who himself enjoyed years of dumb Sabbaths in retirement until moving to TX and appointed to pastor part-time at Laws Chapel. It must be strange and interesting to preach Gospel grace at a place called Laws.
When one who is called to preach is unable to do so, that is a dumb Sabbath. In Asbury’s day, it came about only because of illness, physical inability to mount up and preach. There was no retirement plan. You preached until you died, which was usually at a rather young age. The life of an itinerant preacher on the frontier was dangerous--illness, accidents, wild animals, flooded rivers, hunger, hostiles.
John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, said he required only three things of his ministers, that they be ready to preach, pray, or die at any moment. I have usually been more ready for the first two.
Now, most preachers experience dumb Sabbaths through retirement. We sit in the pews and think about how much better we could preach the sermon we are enduring.
Or we don’t. I am struck by the number of retired preachers I know who do not go to church at all, unless they are on the church staff, as a part-time minister of visitation or similar position.
Our minister, Pastor Paul, is retiring. The bishop is appointing Pastor Jeraldine to replace him. As the only retired preacher in our congregation, I have a lot of work ahead of me. Pastor Jeri is only 59, so she will need a lot of instruction to learn how to do it right, which is to say, the way I did it in days gone by in a church that no longer exists.
Or maybe, just as I was once called to preach “hot truth let loose,” God is still calling me, to dumb Sabbaths.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where people are Yoopers [UPers] and life is defined by winter even in the summer!
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I tweet, occasionally, as yooper1721.