Thank you for indulging my reminisces about and tributes to my mentors. I could go on and on, but I turn my gratitude toward what God has been showing me during my retirement transition.
When I was a bi-vocational pastor many years ago, I sold jewelry for JC Penney. We sold a popular brand of watches known as Fossil, which ironically appealed to teens and young adults. Even more ironic is that the most popular watch was called a Relic. We often think of the terms “fossil,” “relic,” “dinosaur” as meaning outdated, out-of-touch, irrelevant, over-the-hill. But I like the Fossil Watch company’s pitch as being “vintage.”
I never thought the day would come when I would be a relic, a dinosaur, a fossil. Throughout my life, I have considered myself a radical progressive activist while being conservative theologically. I was a Jesus Freak, a Hippie for Christ; I was a crazy charismatic (or so some thought). At various times I was a pacifist and walked in 1970s peace marches; at other times I have been hawkish.
I was a redhead—with the Scotch-Irish-German temper and stubbornness to go along with it.
At one time I was a fightin’ Arminian—and I do mean fightin’! In my freshman year of college as a pre-ministerial student, I roomed with a Baptist PK (Preacher’s Kid). He was a hell-raiser. He said he could get drunk, do drugs, and shack up with girls, and still go to heaven because he was eternally secure. I was raised to believe you could lose your salvation (actually, over and over again). When I called him an S-O-B-P (Son-of-a-B-aptist Preacher), we actually got into a fistfight over Calvinism and Arminianism! I guess in that moment I didn’t care if I lost my salvation over it.
When I settled down and matured a bit (in religious language—got more sanctified), I tried to be balanced in my life, realizing there were good points on both sides of an argument. So I have tried in much of my life to maintain the middle of the road. However, when you do that, you get hit from both sides. But I still tend to take on and write about controversial issues. I guess, to use the old phrase, I am a glutton for punishment. Sorry, I have digressed too far here.
I don’t like the word “retire” because I always want to be involved in ministry, so I say I am “semi”-retired. I have come to realize that for some I am now over the hill. I was trained in college as a 23-year-old to be an expository preacher, preaching through books of the Bible in-depth, because the Word of God is alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). But real biblical exposition seems to be out of vogue now. Forty-five minute messages, and even half-hour messages, it seems, are too long now for people to sit through. I was trained never to “dumb-down” the Word of God. Yes, make it simple, clear, alive—but keep it deep, mixing in a little milk to wash it down. But no, now it has to be 20-minutes in brief bullet points. Keep them entertained, but get a little of the Word in.
I really did not want to retire, but just continue to pastor part-time. But have found that few churches want a “retired” pastor because he is too old, too old fashioned, can’t relate to the younger generation, too set in his ways. I probably said that myself when I was in my twenties, and now I get to eat my words. I think that I appreciate my older mentors a lot more now.
To be very candid, retiring for me over these past few months has been an identity crisis. I was called originally to preach when I was 12 years old. So not to be preaching feels like I have no purpose. I am getting through it, however, coming to realize that I am not a relic, a dinosaur, a fossil, but warts, weaknesses, and all, I am Vintage—like the Relic watches by Fossil.
Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a household manager “who brings out of his treasure things new and old” (Matthew 13:52). Some treasures are valuable because they are new; others are valuable because they are old. The younger generation is a treasure because they have fresh, new ideas. Those of us in the older generation are not fossilized remains from the past, irrelevant and out of touch with the present. We are Vintage—aged wine—better because older. I hope and pray in my retirement years to be vintage—a older treasure that can be of value to the younger generation.