Monday, September 18, 2006

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthian 4:18

As we enter Fall 2006, I am profoundly impressed that a year has flown since first crossing the threshold of St. John’s; and a date certain for departure approaches. Time for a true confession:

From seminary days, I have known and honored the Episcopal tradition of the “interim rector” as a bridge to serve and stabilize the congregation as you plan for succession and continuation of your parish leadership. While I have served as “visiting clergy”, this is my first experience as an “interim rector.” And I confess that while I understand the concept and embrace the role, I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the formulation “interim rector.” I suppose it’s because the title conveys a certain logical and emotional dissonance, akin to pater en passant or transient shepherd.

In prayer and reflection I have come to realize what a great lesson it is to live with the qualifying modifier “interim” attached to your identity. Surely we are all ultimately “interims.” This world is not our home. You and I are only on temporary assignment. We were created for something infinitely better. And how we deal with that irrefutable fact, determines how we spend our “interim” here on earth and how we will spend our eternity.

What a blessing it would be if we all had the concept of “interim” attached to our consciousness, as it surely is attached to our lives. In The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren questions: “How should the fact that life on earth is just a temporary assignment change the way I am living right now?” God gives rectors some extra help in dealing with this question and with the transitory nature of our lives. It is not unusual for us to minister at a wedding, christening and funeral on a single day. Do this a few times and who could fail to take away the lesson of the fleeting nature of our lives…until we rest in Him.

As fellow Christian “interims” here on this earth, God expects us all to live in the moment, but not for the moment. Living in nostalgic fantasy or recrimination diverts us from the reality of witnessing Christ’s love in the here and now. Living in projection is an equally invidious distraction. We are tempted either to kick the tough choices down the road or to look right past the immediate opportunities God gives us everyday to listen, to be considerate and to help.

But the most tragic and ubiquitous variation is the temptation to live in the moment and for the moment…not only carpe diem (seizing the day) but also edi diem (devouring the day), shoveling more stuff into the hole in our souls, to buy and consume immediate happiness, to experience the fleeting endorphin rush of well-being. Sometimes sooner, but most certainly later, we learn that trying to have it all in the here and now is a no-win game. Time, life, fortune, favor, health: all are interim gifts. Only God’s love, and the gifts that grow from it, endures.

Friends this world is not your home, so don’t make yourself cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul.
1 Peter 2: 11

Most mornings I am thrilled to look across the mists of the pond at the simple beauty of St. John’s. I love to watch Robert chase the geese on the lawn. I’m blessed to have Jane fuss over some detail to make the rectory more welcoming. And we’re continually warmed by your hospitality and fellowship. But God is very blunt about our getting too attached to even the most innocent pleasures in our lives. We are meant to experience the full range of our human emotions in this beautiful world in which we live and move and have our being. At times we may experience joy or sorrow and at times even rejection in this world. That's because this is not our home. We are sojourners in an alien land - in this our earthly pilgrimage journeying home. How we accept or reject this truth governs our conduct and determines our happiness.

Our time here is so brief. God wants us to use it to love Him and serve Him by loving and serving each other. He cares if we take all that life serves up and use it as a continuum of opportunities to witness His love for each other.

So as one “interim” to another, we praise God for bringing us together in His love. We confidently seek His plan for us in all Life’s many twists and turns. And we are grateful to Him and to you for our “interim” together at St. John’s.

Sincerely yours in Christ’s love,

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