• My last sermon before retirement will be this coming Sunday.  It will be on video tape and I'll be printing the text and sharing the link with you next Sunday.  It is an important moment for me...the last sermon before retirement.
  • Speaking of retirement, it turns out that I now have an ending date...for my retirement.  I will be retired for two weeks...at which point the bishop is sending me back.  I'll become the full-time pastor (interim) at Grace United Methodist Church in Salem, Illinois.  Their new pastor is in the Philippines and is not able to get into the country, due to immigration restrictions.  They will need someone for six months or so to help them until he is able to arrive.  I'll be spending three days a week down there...and working the rest of the time remotely...from our new home in Urbana.

May 30, 2020
The Bishop, The President, and the Proctologist
I don't usually feel like men are ganging up on me; women sometimes; but usually not men.  
After all, I am the father of three daughters: a pushover when it comes to any one of them.  And if they should be pulling me in different directions?...I'm utterly paralyzed.  Add my wife to the mix...and a female cat...and my mom...and the whole world just shrugs and pities me and writes me off. 
About twelve years ago, I also had a female bishop (from Texas), a female district superintendent (from Korea) and a female doctor (from India.)  I never stood a chance with such a lineup of supervisors. Of course, some guys are jerks and bullies and find ways to mistreat all the women in their lives.  But my mother and my grandmothers and my teachers raised me to treat everyone as I would want to be treated.
The first big break I got was when the cat ran away from home and we replaced her with Earl-the-Cat.  Finally I had a guy in the family to buddy up with.  And then the daughters started bringing home husbands...and things got even a little more easy. And then Sean was born...and we were finally an integrated family.  
But my jitteriness from worrying about pleasing all the women all the time all those decades has never quite gone away.  The only consolation was that I never had to worry about pleasing all the men all the time.  
Until a week ago Friday.  My proctologist, my president, and my bishop plopped uninvited into my life all in one afternoon.  Normally I just blow these three guys off...don't pay much attention to them.  I really like my bishop, but he likes it when I don't draw attention to myself...or put pressure on him.  And my proctologist is a first class doctor.  But we don't send each other birthday cards.  As for the president, I don't think he'd like me anymore than I like him...so we're fine not getting personal.  "Distance" is the word with all three of these guys.

In case you don't know what a proctologist is, that's the person who sticks a huge finger up your caboose, in as painful a way as possible, to see if your prostate has any tumors.  My proctologist always ends the exam by saying, "Feels pretty good to me."  And I always say back, "Not on my end."  And we are both okay to not see each other for a long time in between exams.  
On Friday, while waiting for the proctologist to enter...the room... I got a text from a guy in the church telling me that the president had ordered all churches to reopen "immediately."  

It was Friday afternoon and I had already taped the coming Sunday's sermon.  And I was very tired...and not at all prepared to do all the things we needed to do to safely re-open in two days.  The president had just done to me what the proctologist was about to do.  
My church is in Trump Country, and many of my people love him right up there with God himself...and if Trump said to "reopen immediately," I was going to have a problem on my hands...or a problem in the same vicinity as the proctologist was about to invade.
Then my phone dinged again, and an emergency email arrived from the bishop.  The bishop wanted to let all the pastors know that he (the bishop) decided what churches we would be appointed to, not the president, and we were NOT to reopen on the coming weekend.

I'd had better Friday afternoons. 
The only good thing about that whole affair is that I wasn't worried one bit about what all the women in my life were doing.  
It just goes to show you what a bishop, a president, and a proctologist can do to a guy when they all decide to enter your life at once.
Lord have mercy.

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I used to write it when I first woke up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation. Now I write it on a Saturday, revise it, and send all of them out by email.This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than pontificating.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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