I had forgotten just how draining it is to spend many hours using large quantities (ergs?) of nervous energy in front of three different groups of people totaling maybe six or seven hundred (a large attendance due to the events) speaking at and leading portions of worship.

My exhaustion was inconsequential in the face of the reason for my participation. The Father of the Pastor who followed me at the parish from which I retired died early last week.  He had been sick and was being served by Hospice.  Pastor Jim needed to remain in another State with his Mother and family to be a support to her.  Having been through the sort of loss his Mother experienced, it is clear that is exactly the choice that needed to be made.

The impact of that circumstance was increased by the fact that today was the Confirmation of twenty-one Eighth Graders who had been preparing for this day for two years.  Extended families would be gathered for what in our tradition is one of the most important days in a Young person’s life.  It is the recognition that these people have reached the age of discretion, and they are declaring their intentions as their faith life unfolds during their trek through Adolescence and on into the rest of their lives. It was an honor to be able to stand in for Pastor Jim, freeing him to fulfill his responsibility to his Mother and his Family at this difficult time for them.

One dimension of the experience did not become clear to me until at a rehearsal for the day, a couple of parents observed that when they were infants about fourteen years earlier, I had baptized those same people at whose Confirmation I would now be presiding.  When I thought back over my forty year career, I realized that this would be the first time I had Confirmed people I had baptized as Infants.  The duration and/or the role at the congregations I served did not provide that opportunity.

Another dimension of the experience that came to mind as I was preparing to preach the sermon in the third Worship Service this morning, the one at which the Confirmation would take place.  Very soon after Mary Ann died, it hit me that I was starting life over again.  Gratefully, that life still included my Children and Grandchildren, but my career of forty years was over and my wife was no longer here with me.  Those two things had been the focal point of my days, all day long every day for my entire adult life.  I realized as I was preparing to stand in front of those twenty-one Eighth Graders and their extended families that there were twenty-two of us starting a new journey in life.  There were twenty-two of us wondering who we are becoming, what we should do with our lives.  They are stepping out of their families of origin, at some point, on their own as a unique someone who is not just an extension of their parents.  I am moving into an unknown, by myself.

It isn’t the first time I have identified with people in their circumstances.  The working title (not necessarily the final choice) of the book I am painstakingly slowly trying to write is “Thirteen Again.”  Just a week or two after Mary Ann died I went to a musical titled, “Thirteen.”  The central character is having his Bar Mitzvah, wondering who he is and what will come in his life.  As I watched and listened, I was moved deeply by his struggle, realizing it was precisely the struggle I was in.  There is a certain uniqueness about that time in life when we confront the harsh reality that each of us is a single someone separate from everyone else.  No one else can live our lives for us.  That realization can be frightening.  It is also exciting as hints of all sorts of potential futures for who we are becoming come into view.

The experience this morning was both moving and frightening for me.  My regular participation in leading worship ceased almost four years ago.  It is hard to describe the complexity of moving through three worship services all having different bits and pieces to track, different elements to negotiate.  I made one hopelessly embarrassing faux pas in one of the services.  Gratefully, it had no impact on the event other than to embarrass me and leave those who caught what was happening a little unsure what on earth I was going to do next.  It did leave me wondering if it is time no longer to accept any request to serve in that role.  No matter what, I would have accepted the role this Sunday since it was an emergency need.

I am exhausted; I am sad for Pr. Jim and his family having to deal with the death of his Father.  I am also grateful for the chance to have been a part of such a day.  I can only hope that it was a good day for their families and those twenty-one young people who were Confirmed.

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6 Responses to Exhausted!

  1. Judy Johnsen says:

    I would think twice before giving up assisting and conducting services. You are just a bit out of practice!!! Hang in there!!

  2. Brenda schwartz says:

    You were awesome this morning and we are very privileged that it is with these kids that you got to both baptize and confirm them! As I told you, Jacob said your sermon was GREAT! I was impressed that he had that response! He was really listening! ( ; I wholeheartedly agree that it was amazing how you wove the 23rd psalm into the confirmation day and made it so memorable! God’s blessings! Brenda Schwartz

  3. Connie Crowder says:

    You are an amazing and gifted man. The Lord has truly blessed you with a gift to share His message to His people. Today was all part of His marvelous plan. Thank you for sharing your gift.

  4. Jim Bender says:

    Pastor Pete– THANK YOU for stepping in. It was a blessing to be with the family and not have to zip back to KS right away. I visited St. Stephanus on Sunday and one of the kids (13 year old mentally disabled child) came up to me and said “you baptized me.” Pretty cool stuff.

  5. Dan Feldscher says:

    I echo Judy’s response. After retiring last July I just began to serve a vacancy 6 weeks ago. It took a little while to get back into the swing of things, and I made a few goofs, too, but I am really enjoying it now and the congregation is grateful for my service. So as Judy said, “Hang in there!”

  6. thank you for the message on Sunday it was very meaningful to me and am sure to others. when we retire we just get envolved in new things in our lives. Be careful with those mountain walks remember that is why I had to have my knee replaced trying to keep up with my younger brother a few years ago while in Colorado on vacation was sure if he could climb to the top so could I and see everything only problem was I came down a lot faster then he did…Gods blessing

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