Ashes and journeys

Lately I have been thinking about things I don’t want to forget as a pastor…things that if my younger self came to me in the beginning of my career and asked, “What are some things you wish you knew now,” what I would say to myself.  Much of what I don’t want to forget or the things to pass on to someone else if they asked have to do around people’s transitions….death, new things in life, broken relationships, new relationships, and the seasons in between.

For example…I have learned over the years that the best question to ask someone who is transitioning from this life to the next is, “do you have anything you want to say to me?” This question alone has given fruit of some of my best and most poignant memories.  I remember Frank, a retired OSU professor in his 90s, looking up at me from his hospital bed and saying, “I was working on a lecture about Abraham Lincoln. Can I give you that lecture?”  And I sat for the next hour listening about President Lincoln. Or Curt turning to me to say, “Tell them about the context of the Gospel. It’s important,” as we waited for his brain tumor to finally take over.  Or Diane reminding me about how to be a courageous woman or John reminding me about community and what it means to find goodness.  Or others who taught me that to be present in the last moments was the most important thing that I could do…no words needed.

I have been telling ministry stories lately and perhaps that means I don’t want to forget that marvelous unexpected very human things happen in ministry….like when the pastor (me) slips and says “anti-glutheran” in the midst of the communion liturgy and no control can be gained back or when a sermon is forgotten.  Perhaps when I wasp stings the preacher during the sermon or she shows up wearing two different shoes on Sunday morning and in the midst of those moments come really great stories.

I have been remembering the weddings and the funerals…hot pink caskets, celebrating multiple people, trying to get the sand out to unite together, blowing out candles when not meant to…kind of stuff because I don’t want to forget that people are holy and hilarious.

And all of these things come while we prepare to take on the Lenten journey next week. To remember that we are finite. We are ashes. We are dust and will return to that space.  We all journey. We all create meaning and stories.  We are all human and hilarious.  We are stardust.

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