Years ago a member of the Commission on Special Ministries asserted that instead of speaking of retirement, we should use the word “redirection.” From all I’ve heard about that stage of life, it’s not pulling back from life. Most retired people I know say they are busier than ever, but they are doing something different. Redirection seems more accurate.
I mention retirement and redirection because this is my last month serving the call to be WELS director of Special Ministries. This call redirected me for over a decade. I had been a parish pastor until I was called to this office. The Lord gave me new challenges and a different way to serve him as I served my fellow WELS members through this office.
I expect new challenges and different ways of serving Jesus. God’s people never come to a point in life where we stop serving him. I have some ideas of what my next stage of serving might look like while I still have health and energy. Having watched my grandparents and parents before me, I even have some idea of what serving the Lord may look like if I live to be frail or sick. Wherever Jesus directs me, I pray that I will be a blessing to others.
I recently attended the retirement of a dear sister in Christ and she was asked what advice she would give new teachers. She didn’t hesitate: “Love your students.” It took me back to the beginning of my ministry, and the advice of seasoned pastors I admired who stressed, “Love your people.” If you’ve read what I’ve written or said in Special Ministries, you already know what my parting advice will be: Love them. Love the people who struggle. Love the prodigals. Love people so much that you can’t stand the thought that they are unable to hear a sermon or read a Christian devotion. Love them so much that you ask the Lord how he wants us to overcome the obstacles that loom large. Love them so much that you see the gifts God gave them. And love those who serve with you.
Sensitive Lutheran readers are thinking to themselves, “That paragraph is loaded with Law!” My response is that Christian lives are loaded with love. In grace, God has made us his beloved children, redeemed us, and made us alive with Christ. In grace, God also loves the people we serve. They may not make sense to us. They wander and are unfaithful. They get angry and impatient. But our God’s love fills us with the urgent longing that none of them be lost. No matter what the barrier, no matter what the unfortunate circumstance, may they learn the life-giving gospel and know the love of Jesus.
Rev. Jim Behringer, director, WELS Commission on Special Ministries
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