I remember that Seneca said something to the effect that "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." I am not waxing philosophical, exactly, but here on the Saturday evening before my last preaching Sunday at FUMC, I am experiencing a deep place, a tranquil and at the same time restless moment.
I wonder what it is about me that I make such a "difference," and by that I mean that people to whom I minister for the most part either love me or hate me, or if not love then really, really appreciate and if not hate, then really, really resent. I would like, vaingloriously, to imagine that in the latter case it is because my teaching and preaching unearth the unclean spirits resting comfortably in a place (ala Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum), but I am not at all sure that is true. Maybe a little, or some.
I would take some comfort in that "if they have hated me they will hate you" text, if I had any sense at all that it is on account of the gospel that I experience people's irritation and dismission (if not outright animosity). The word of God may indeed be a two-edged sword, but who's to say, finally, that I am not grinding my own axe and that the gospel is ill-served by my little attempts at prophetic critique.
At the same time, people who don't know me up close find me entirely forgetable... my name being difficult and my face being average, and my charisma being set to low. My cynicism, too, plays a part in all of that.
I am 54. I am moving again. Yes, I have had some notable successes,even here, but there is a good chance the Family Life Center will be mostly empty tomorrow. This last week the UMW did not invite me to their annual picnic, when it would have been a natural time to say farewell. The minutes of the last Church Council meeting did not, except in my own report, say ANYTHING about my leaving, or the church's thanks, or anyone's sadness at my departing. I have gotten all of TWO cards from folk. It is a really strange feeling. I really do think the most of the people here have appreciated, as much as they have experienced, my work. But the only real "vibe" I am getting is negative. So, so strange.
And yes, this is a perfectly dysfunctional congregation.
Still, it is odd... I wonder how Jesus views my ministry. Maybe I do not have enough joy; that is, the news is good, but not good enough in my mind to make me cheerful. That melancholy and dysthemia comes across as condescension and anger... people feel I am never satisfied with them. And perhaps that is true.
In any case, I am on my way to dinner. My sermon, such as it is, is finished. One to go.