February 1 is the day that Advisory Response Forms are due to my office declaring that churches and/or clergy want a change in appointment. It’s been like a full moon around here! My phone has been ringing off the hook with people asking, “Can you get us a better pastor?” or clergy asking, “Is this a good year to move?” In other words, this is that time of year that United Methodist laity and preachers get antsy about changing clergy. It is unsettling to think that one might have to move on to a new ministry, or break in a new pastor.
I am glad to report that it appears that I will have very few moves this year in the Columbia District. I don’t say this because it’s a lighter load, but because ministry and partnerships are bearing fruit! Our younger clergy (under 35) aren’t doing ministry for extrinsic reasons, so there’s some built-in reluctance to move. This is according to Dr. Lovett Weems of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. My impression is that most clergy feel this way. Ministry isn’t an easy ride so the reason to be in it has to more intrinsic than extrinsic. What I’m trying to say is this, whether a clergyperson is young or old, or somewhere in between, moving is no picnic. I often have thought that maybe we should move all the people and leave the pastors so everyone would have a taste of itinerancy. Ha!
The prospect of starting over in a new parish is difficult to ponder, whether one is laiy or clergy, especially if age or infirmity is making box-lifting a problem. I wonder if Abram and Sarai felt some of this age-reluctance when, in their seventies, they were asked by God to leave their home in Ur and travel to an unknown destination? Sounds like United Methodism’s method of deployment, doesn’t it?
I know some clergy with more zip in later life than earlier, and I know others who have already retired and have forgotten to tell the Board of Pensions. But, look at Abram and Sarai and you see a clergy couple ready to do what God wants! Ah, but you might say that their ages weren’t computed the way that ours are today. After all, they both lived well into their 100’s.
Perhaps they enjoyed good health because of the Middle Eastern diet. For instance, Mussa Zoabi of Israel claims to be the oldest person alive. He says he’s 160 years old. His name won’t go down in the record books because he is older than most record-keeping systems and his age can’t be verified. The interesting thing, however, is that Mussa Zoabi can tell you exactly why he’s lived so long. He says it’s his diet. Every day he drinks either a cup of melted butter or olive oil. Yuck!
Diets are the rage, aren’t they? It seems that everyone has some special diet that will do this or that for you. Maybe Abram and Sarai had a special diet. Remember, when they got to the Promised Land, Abram had to pass his seventy-something wife off as his sister because she was so good looking that he was afraid someone would kill him to get her. Wow! Abram and Sarai must have had good genes and a super diet.
Sixty percent of the people in North America say that they’re on a diet. Imagine that! We all want to be modern day Sarai’s and Abraham’s, at least in vitality! A staff person at Weight Watchers once told this story. She said that a new client had begun their diet. The person came in to be weighed after the first stressful week. The person stepped on the scales and had only lost a couple of pounds! The dieter wasn’t too happy, and complained. This is what the dieter said: “My friend comes here to Weight Watchers, and told me they had lost ten pounds. They said I’d lose ten pounds in the first week, too!”
Well, the leader at Weight Watchers was a little disturbed. She knew that you don’t lose weight over night. So she asked the dieter, a little indignantly: “Who told you that? Is this person a doctor?” The dieter said, “No.” The leader asked, “Is this person a nurse?” “No,” again said the dieter. “Well,” continued the leader, “Is this person a nutritionist, or another Weight Watcher’s leader?” Negative again! “Well, who is this person?” asked the leader. “I think,” said the newcomer, “I think this person is a liar!”
Most of us know the truth and the lies about dieting. But what’s the truth about Abram and Sarai? How did they get the courage and gumption at their age to leave Ur of the Chaldees and strike out for Canaan? What made them any different from us and can we have a little bit of what they had? Whatever it was, like the person in the restaurant observing the obvious delight of a nearby couple, I’d like to say, “I want to have what they’re having.” Whether we’re laity or clergy at this anxious time of year and are concerned about moving and United Methodist itinerancy, we know what Abram and Sarai’s main diet was this: FAITH! Trust in God and yielding to His direction will be the best move we will ever make! Trusting and obeying are the only diet that works on a faith journey. May it be so with all of our United Methodist anxiety about appointment-making and moves!