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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Appreciate the moment!

Funny how things sometimes flow together.

There I was at my desk. I had just read a review of a local performance of one of the great old classic plays of the American theater, Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The dramatic nexus of that play comes when Emily Webb, dead far too soon after her marriage, is given the chance to return to earth to relive one day of the life now ended. She chooses her 12th birthday, but is quickly frustrated by her inability to break through the routine-ness of everyday life to urge her family to an appreciation of life, a noticing of what is going on around them. Her classic quote: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?”

I had some of my favorite “classical sacred” music playing in the background, meaning Jimmy Buffett. The first lines from his post-Katrina anthem to New Orleans, “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On.”

I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man
Floating down Canal
It doesn't use numbers or moving hands
It always just says now
Now you may be thinking that I was had
But this watch is never wrong
And If I have trouble the warranty said
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On.

The watch is never wrong, because it always calls one to life in the present, now.

And…I was picking up my favorite reading of the moment, A Journey of Grace, the autobiography of Herbert Chilstrom, the first presiding bishop of the ELCA. I have just reached the point of his election as bishop of the former Minnesota Synod of the Lutheran Church in America. So far I have read about his up-bringing, education and experience as a parish pastor. The parish pastor part really connected with my own experience as a parish pastor, and stirred up the memory of how fulfilling and satisfying that was. Okay, I will even put it more simply and bluntly—what fun being a pastor was! I had 38 years as a parish pastor, and it wasn’t enough.

So now I want to play Emily Webb on you. Interns, supervisors: appreciate this opportunity you have. Enjoy it. Don’t get your nose so close to the grindstone that you miss out on the miracles God is doing around you all the time. May your watch always say now!

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