Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Fear of Letting Go

Ecclesiastes 7:14   (The Message)
On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.

Back at the end of January, if you had asked me how hard this was going to be --- I would have told you (Actually, I did tell a few of you) that it would be --- NO PROBLEM

Boy was I wrong

I have found out that I have been lying to myself
Trying to juggle two jobs is tough!

But also trying to find time to grieve (especially when you are working seven days a week) and trying hard not to show that you are grieving has been unbelievably hard!

And while next Sunday may be my last Sunday in the pulpit with you --- I am still the lead pastor until June 30th.
If you have a pastoral need --- DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL ME
If you are in the hospital --- I will visit --- if you let me know you are there
Or, if you just want me to come and visit -- just, let me know, I will arrange to stop over

While I say that --- please be aware --- Nancy and I will be on vacation from May 31 - June 17.
As many of you know --- we are going to New Zealand
It started as a trip to visit Haley as she finishes her student teaching In Auckland
It has shifted to almost a kind of retirement celebration from local church ministry for me

So, if during that 2 1/2 weeks you have a pastoral need, either Pastor Sheri, Kathy (who is responsible for visitation) or one of the pastors from one of the local UM Churches will be there to respond to your need.

When we get back from our trip --- while I will not be in the pulpit --- I still have two weddings, a Golf Group Party and who knows what else.

But what happens after July 1?
          Michelle Knight will be your pastor
          Nancy and I will be your friend

Since we are not leaving the community --- I know this is going to be a little tricky for all of us.

Let me illustrate:

There is a whole group from Ridge Church that attends the Theater at the Centre the same night we do.
You sit right in front of us --- and you still will when we attend the next show

You will run into us in grocery stores and in restaurants

The only thing that will change is I will not be your pastor

The one place that we will not be --- is at Ridge Church functions.

Part of the covenant that we agree to as United Methodist Clergy is that when we leave a church --- regardless of whether it is because of a move to a new church or a retirement or an appointment to an extension ministry --- we leave the church. 

We covenant with each other to only come by invitation of the pastor, and not to interfere in that Pastor's ministry

Rev Michelle Knight will be your pastor effective July 1 --- and I intend to do all in my power to help her succeed --- and the most important thing I can do to help her is stay out of the way.

Nancy and I will spend the next several months visiting other churches --- and I have told Nancy that she gets to pick where we go --- since she hasn't had a choice in the matter the last 29 years.

But that is not what I want to talk about today.

I want to talk about the fear of change --- or as I titled this sermon --- The Fear of Letting Go

NOBODY likes change ---
          except maybe a baby with a dirty diaper

Most of us are paralyzed by the thought of change.

In his wonderful book The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz tells the story of Marissa Panigrosso, who worked on the 98th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

She recalled that when the first plane hit the North Tower on September 11, 2001, a wave of hot air came through her glass windows as intense as opening a pizza oven.

She did not hesitate.
She didn’t even pick up her purse, make a phone call or turn off her computer.
She walked quickly to the nearest emergency exit, pushed through the door and began the ninety-eight-stairway decent to the ground.

What she found curious is that far more people chose to stay right where they were. They made outside calls and even an entire group of colleagues went into their previously scheduled meeting.

Why would they choose to stay in such a vulnerable place in such an extreme circumstance?

Because they were human beings and human beings find change to be extremely difficult, practically impossible.

To leave without being instructed to leave was a risk.

Even among those people who chose to leave, there were some who went back to the floor to retrieve personal belongings they couldn’t bear to part with.

One woman was walking down alongside Marissa Panigrosso when she stopped herself and went back upstairs to get the baby pictures of her children left on her desk.
To lose them was too much for her to accept. The decision was fatal.

When human beings are faced with chaotic circumstances, our impulse is to stay safe by doing what we’ve always done before.
To change our course of action seems far riskier than to keep on keeping on.
To change anything about our lives, even our choice of toothpaste, causes great anxiety.

How we are convinced finally to change is by hearing stories of other people who risked and triumphed.
Not some easy triumph, either.
But a hard fought one that takes every ounce of the protagonist’s inner fortitude.
Because that’s what it takes in real life to leave a dysfunctional relationship, move to a new city, or quit your job. It just does.

I think it is because change requires loss.

And the prospect of loss is far more powerful than potential gain.

It’s difficult to imagine what a change will do to us.

But change is coming and I want to address my fears of change --- my fears of letting go and in the process hopefully address some of yours.

I think the biggest fear --- the elephant in the room for you and for me is pretty much the same fear --- we just come at it a little differently

·         Will we like the new way?
Will you like Pastor Michelle?
Will I like my new role at TradeWinds as Director of Marketing and Development?

·         With a new leader --- will you see all of my flaws that you overlooked
          As I struggle with my insecurities

·         At the end of the day --- did I make a difference?

The truth is we don't have to accept the reality that I will no longer be your pastor.
We can stick our head in the sand --- we can put out hands over our ears and sing --- falalalala

But it doesn't change anything

Hanging on keeps us from moving forward
17 years ago there were some families that were very close to Pastor Herr

The sad reality is --- a majority of them are no longer active in the church because they could not make the transition to the new guy (me)

Others of you loved Pastor Herr, but when the Conger's arrived you adapted to the new leadership --- and over time many of you came to love us and respect us, just as you had the previous pastors

Joseph Campbell put it this way:
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.

BUT, I understand the reality of the situation

For some of you I have been your pastor for the past 17 years
          I have performed 98 Weddings (and counting)
          Following a number of those weddings I have shared in a baptism
                   119 baptisms
          Celebrated 251 funerals

I was your pastor when Mariana joined us --- yesterday she graduated from Lincoln College
I was your pastor when Alex came from Russia
I was your pastor on Sept 11, 2001 --- when we all gathered in fear in the sanctuary to pray and try to comprehend how our world had changed and would never be the same

I have been at your plays, and your parties, and your celebrations and surgeries

And I will always cherish those memories
          And nothing can take them away

I hope you will cherish them as well

But I also want you to make new memories

The other day when the storm came through I was looking out the window and watching the trees --- and I had a revelation.

The trees in the storm don't try to stand up straight and tall and erect.

They allow themselves to bend and be blown with the wind.

They understand the power of letting go.

Those trees and those branches that try too hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break.

We have to be flexible and let the winds of change blow.

There are things that we never want to let go of, people we never want to leave behind. 

But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world; it’s the beginning of a new life.

Letting go doesn't mean that we don't care

Letting go doesn't mean we shut down

Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people do what we want.

It means we give up resistance to the way things are.

It means we stop trying to do the impossible --- controlling that which we cannot --- and instead, focus on what is possible. 

And we do this in gentleness, kindness, and love, as much as possible.

Change is not easy

Letting go will not be easy

But we let go --- so that we can become what God desires us to be.

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