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Sermon for April 2013
April 2013 • By Rev. Dave Roberts.+

Retirement? Whatís that?!

When Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement in early February, a few of you wrote (and two called) to ask if I was considering taking his place. I told you then that as much as Iíd like to help out, Iím busy enough doing what I do and loving what I do, but most importantly, doing what God called me to do. He didnít call me to be a pope and the fact that my phone isnít ringing means the Vaticanís not calling me.

Now a few weeks later, (today is February 28th), I turned on the news in time to see the Pope making his way to the helicopter to be flown to Castelo Gandolfo and hosts of cardinals and others kneeling before him and kissing his ring. Benedict looked very tired and aged and with the problems he inherited, he well should be. Later this morning, I was reading an article by a former English Catholic who was very condemning of the Papacy and assigned possible motives for why he resigned. There was a time in my younger, more zealous years I might have sympathized with the writer but my own age and experience has taught me that people who convert from anything to something else will be the biggest critics of their former affiliation. Maybe itís their way of assuring themselves they really did the right thing by converting but the spirit of the article was all wrong. There was no love in it and the article was condemning, even judging Benedictís eternity. Iíve dropped my subscription to that magazine anyway because it hasnít had an edifying article in it for the past decade. While I donít ever see myself converting to anything from where God has me right now, I have mellowed considerably and am not passing judgments on folks like I once did. Aging, and the discomfort that comes with it, have a way of letting us see that everyone, everywhere, has life issues that are going to be there in spite of their religious, political, emotional or economic status. Plato said, ďEveryone has a battle.Ē

By the time you receive this, Iíll have turned the big 70 (March 20th Ė but if you call right now, because I canít make this offer forever, you can still send a gift! Operators are standing byÖ*). Where was I? Anyway, the big 70! Larry Silver said a rabbi he knew declared that 70 is the new 50 and I would agree. We are living a lot better now than any generation before us. But the generations that are coming up behind us now concern me. I wonít go into a lecture about how bad itís gotten, lack of respect, politics, angst, all of the things that can cause the older generation like mine dismay. Rather than cursing the darkness, Iíd prefer to light a candle because if our generation and especially the people of faith donít, who will? The media, Hollywood, the Internet, etc., certainly wonít. Iíve ministered to a lot of people over the years and the lack of dads in our nation has taken a toll on those becoming adults now. Whether I wanted to or not, just listening to some of these people, especially guys, over a cup of coffee makes them respond or talk to me as though Iím a father figure they never had. I donít try to be fatherly; many of them talk to me as though I was because I guess Iím giving them an ear that no one ever did before.

Which reinforces the question Iíve been asking for years now: How can I retire? Iíve been told by a couple of fellow pastors who are my age and who have retired that Iím crazy for still being in the ministry but I donít know that Iím equipped to do anything else and, most importantly, God has not released me from it. Fortunately, while it can be tough, itís not tedious and I enjoy what I do. Thereís a sense of fulfillment by the end of the day that, perhaps, Iíve been able to ameliorate someoneís take on life, their situation or their status just by reminding them that Iím trying to imitate what Jesus would do if they were talking to Him. If this is what Heís called us to do, how can any of us in the ministry retire from it? Even if you are having to work an outside job to support your calling, youíll find you still have a ministry just because it is who you are, not what you ďdo.Ē A true minister cannot shut it off. Like a computer, you can go into a sleep mode at times and every so often it may need a reboot (a break where you can reevaluate why youíre in the Lordís Service), but you cannot cease to be or run from who God says you are. Itís a gift, a calling and an anointing and can take on all kinds of forms so we shouldnít try to imitate someone elseís style of ministry but move in what God has given us individually. Every one of us are unique although most people, Christians or not, donít see that because they often stop thinking once they hear your title. They expect this if youíre title is that. We are already boxed and labeled by most people and judged by the same ones if they see us as a hireling for their needs or wants rather than a servant who should represent Jesus to them and point them toward Him.

One of the things that Lonny Davis wrote in his long November letter that I used for my March Newsletter sermon was this: ďYour beliefs and practices put you in the minority of Christian pastors, at least, among those with whom I am familiar. I, for one, am grateful that you have not allowed yourself to be put back into the religious box. You have a Ďdisadvantageí over the average church member. ÖYou have been insulated from such trivial religious endeavors as you have been seriously involved in bringing men to Jesus and teaching them to be His disciples. But, had you served in some of the churches where I have served, churches with reputations of being Ďsolidly evangelical,í ĎBible-basedí churches, you would have no difficulty in understanding how a group of young men could get so off base, even though they spent their Sundays with professing Christians under the care of professional pastors. Ö You are certainly an Ďirregularí among the ordained ministry set. I pray that, in the way you already have, you will remain a maverick.Ē

Being a ďmaverickĒ does not necessarily mean being without accountability. The maverick that Lonny thinks he sees in me is my inability to be at ease with a nailed-down system of church polity that prevents me from being available to God on a momentís notice to go over there instead of continuing this direction. Those often divergent changes are usually because thereís someone there who is ready to hear about Jesus. Itís the story of my life and I donít apologize for it. Some of you reading this got saved when you did because I changed direction and struck up a conversation with you or picked you out of a crowd for a special prayer need. Please donít think I have an inflated view of my lifestyle. I donít! It can be a worrisome walk of faith for me at times or a bit of an inconvenience when I suddenly have to have back surgery so that, a year later, I can lead the surgeon to Christ days before he was going to be baptized into a cult. It can frustrate me to have to wait out a blizzard in western Nebraska at a cafť where it just happens that the waitress is ready to hear about Jesus Ė and receive Him! If I wasnít this kind of maverick, Iíd ignore whatís in front of me always trying to meet some ecclesiastical goal on a horizon I never quite reach.

I also realize that other pastors, priests and ministers arenít wired or called this way and thatís valid too, as long as theyíre following the Lord the way Heís leading them.

So the retirement question still surfaces, especially from non-mavericks of my ilk who canít understand why Iím not living life on a Florida golf course. For me, itís simply this: Where can someone who is in the ministry justify retirement from the Bible? If youíre professional clergy, youíre likely just doing a job and retirement is what the system rewards. But you pay a price to be in that system and itís often compromising yourself, or worse, Godís Word. A true minister of God, so called of Him, always tries to see an opportunity with every delay, every encounter, every change-of-plans, even a hospital stay (which none of us like).

In closing, let me quote part of an article by Marvin Olasky from the September 10th, 2011 issue of World Magazine, page 128. ďJohn Piperís pamphlet Rethinking Retirement (Crossway, 2009) notes that many Americans believeí we must reward ourselves now in this life for the long years of our labor.í Retirement Ė playing, traveling, sleeping late Ė is Ďthe worldís substitute for heaven since the world does not believe there will be a heaven beyond the grave.í

ďRetirement beckons to many just as pretty fruit enticed Eve. Many people bite in and then find many of their days to be empty. Christians should understand that, as Piper writes, Ďmost of the suggestions this world offers us for our retirement years are bad ideas. They call us to live in a way that would make this world look like our treasure. And when that happens, Jesus is belittled.í But many Christians fall into worldly thinking.

I have stated my views according to my being in the ministry. But for those of you in a different vocation, even if you are retired by your company, your life doesnít have to turn into the worldís rewards only. If youíre a Christian, your life has a ministry of some sort and that would be a really good time to find out what is lying there, waiting to be utilized in your remaining time before you go Home. And guys, in the absence of so many daddies in our society, what a great call you could have being a granddad to many. Donít let those life experiences and overcome obstacles be wasted. Theyíve taught you what you can pass on to the next couple of generations coming behind us who otherwise could be very lost to God and to life itself.

Piper says it well: ďFinishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement ÖWe are set free from the cravings that create so much emptiness and uselessness in retirement. Knowing that we have an infinitely satisfying and everlasting inheritance in God just over the horizon of life makes us zealous in our few remaining years here to spend ourselves in the sacrifices of love, not the accumulation of comforts.Ē

*I am actually giving things away these days so I donít need any gifts. But prayers are always welcome.

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