Father Harold Stanhope removed the stole from around his neck—green, since September is Ordinary Time in the liturgical year—and laid it back on the shelf. Then he unfastened the rope cinch around his waist, took off his alb, and hung it on the rack next to the stole. After pouring himself a glass of cranberry juice over ice, he kicked off his shoes and settled into his favorite chair. It had been a good morning.
He had spent most of the past two hours standing—while preaching, celebrating Holy Communion, and greeting the people as they left the chapel following the service—and at age eighty-one, that was not as easy to do as it once was. Father Harry, as everybody called him, was tired, but he was also very happy. His ministry filled him with satisfaction and a deep sense of gratitude for the privilege of serving God in this place. Continue reading →
Speaking of Reformation, what if pastors, priests, and other pastoral leaders,
instead of functioning like…
expounders of truth and wisdom
entrepreneurial spirits who view their role in the life of the church as CEO in a business enterprise
saw themselves as…
recipients of grace and mercy
chastened and teachable spirits who view their role as an example of those who have suffered loss because they had the courage to change, and through it all clung to faith, maintained hope, and lifted up Jesus.
I’ve known for years that most people who have heard me preach think that I do a pretty good job. I hope that doesn’t sound like bragging. Truth is I’ve always assumed that if God calls you to do a particular work, he will also supply sufficient gifts so that, if you work hard, you can achieve at least a moderate level of proficiency in the task. I would hate to think that God called me to do something at which I would never be any good. Continue reading →
This coming Sunday, May 12, 2013, my wife and I will celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. If you were to ask me to identify the single most significant evidence of God’s unfailing care and concern for me as a Christ-follower and a minister of the gospel over the past four decades, I would answer, without hesitation: “Three words—Shirley Lorraine Clairmont.”
That may not be the most romantic paragraph with which I could have begun a post in which I reflect on forty years of marriage, but it gets to the heart of the matter as pointedly as I know how. I have devoted my life to the service of Christ and His Kingdom. Forty years ago, Shirley joined me in that endeavor. It has been a team effort since then. She has been my greatest asset in all these years of ministry, and I am grateful to God for His faithfulness in bringing her into my life.
There are some days when I almost regret having given Arthur Lough my cell phone number. When he called me last Tuesday to ask if I would like to attend the annual dinner of our local ministerium, at which he was to be the featured speaker, I thought that might be one of those days. Turns out I was very, very wrong.
“How long have you known about this gig?” I asked him, before I responded to his request.
“They just called me about an hour ago,” he said. “Their scheduled speaker has fallen ill, and they are desperate for somebody to fill in. I think I was the third or fourth call they’ve made. Nobody is willing to take the assignment on such short notice.”
Late last December, I decided to write a blog post in which I would communicate something of the frustration I was feeling in my relationship with the church and with Christian faith in general. It occurred to me, when I sat down to write, that I might be able to express myself more effectively if I created an alter ego and let him say the things I was feeling. Thus the idea for Arthur Lough was born.
When I wrote the post which I titled “Arthur Lough’s Crisis of Faith,” I expected it would be a one-time occurrence. It was fun to do, and it let me blow off a little steam in the third person. Then it seemed appropriate to do a follow-up post, and before you could say “fictional curmudgeon,” I was well into the series of eighteen (so far) posts which I have called “The Arthur Chronicles.”
I declined Arthur’s offer of another cup of tea. He nodded, then went about the task of tidying up a bit while he waited for the kettle to boil. When it did, he poured hot water into his own cup, dropped in the teabag he had already used once, placed the kettle back on the stove, and returned to his seat at the table. He said nothing as he waited for his tea to steep.
I sat there at Arthur’s table for another thirty minutes or so. At first it was a bit awkward, since neither of us knew exactly what we wanted, or needed, to say after Arthur’s moment of self-revelation. I could tell that his “confession” had left him a bit deflated. I think it must have been the first time he had admitted his dilemma, out loud, to anyone except perhaps his wife.