—Jesus, Matthew 4.19
Forty-one years ago I was graduating from seminary in California. I hadn’t really thought about my future. I assumed I’d go back to Montana and be a pastor. My best friend, preparing for an internship, said, “Steve, I’m going to Minnesota. I can go with you or without you.” I moved to Minnesota. She didn’t need to say the words, but her love said, “Follow me.” This June we’ll celebrate our 40th Anniversary.
Forty years ago, as an intern chaplain at a State Hospital I was to visit someone in intensive care. It was an old building, often remodeled, with hallways jutting off each other at disorienting angles. The patient’s room was at the far end of a warren of hallways, rooms, adjacent rooms and what seemed like booby-trapped secret passageways. I was at a loss how to get there. And being young and green I wasn’t sure of my authority to go traipsing through such forbidding neighborhoods. But a nurse said, “Follow me,” and she started off. Staying right behind her, I made it.
When Jesus says ”Follow me” it isn’t a command. It’s an offer. It’s an accompaniment. It’s a rescue.
Forty years ago I began in parish ministry, but not on my own: Jesus went ahead of me. One by one I’ve gone into five churches (some of them co-pastoring with Beth) and a college campus, and every time, there was Jesus walking just ahead of me, saying, “Follow me.”
For forty years I’ve walked into worship services and family meetings, emergency rooms, nursing homes and jail cells, new places and threatening places, and whether or not I knew it, or listened, there was Jesus walking just ahead of me saying, “Follow me.”
And now after 40 years, Jesus once again says, “Follow me”… and walks off… into my retirement. I’m not quitting. I’m not giving up. I’m following my Guide into the next unknown adventure. I’m letting go of “being a pastor,” and moving into something else. (Don’t worry—I’ll keep writing. Now I’ll have more time to write.) I’m doing what I need to do to stay close to my Beloved.
Whatever you are doing, wherever you are going, whatever you are facing, the Divine Presence is just ahead of you, leading, guiding, empowering. Stay close.
My retirement will come at the end of June. We’ll be moving to Maine, to a new neighborhood, a new life. And every step, Jesus will be right there, just ahead of us…
January 23, 2020