My Top Ten Posts from 2016

cropped-winter-11Once again as the old year passes and the new year beckons, it is my custom to look back at my most popular posts of the year. Some years a theme emerges, and this year it is the passing of old friends and mentors. Three of my professors from seminary died within a few weeks of each other early in the year, and my tributes to and remembrances of them were among the most popular posts.

Here in order are the most visited new posts from 2016:

A Prayer for Christmas (and for our time) from Karl Barth

A Tribute to Meredith Brook “Jerry” Handspicker 1932-2016

“Of Fig Trees and Second Chances” A Sermon on Luke 13:6-9

Remembering William L. Holladay

Let us not treat this wound too lightly. Reconciliation requires repentance

Mike Maguire and Me: Recollections from Long Ago

“Rich in Things and Poor in Soul” A Sermon on Luke 12:13-21

A tribute to Max L. Stackhouse

“Holy Weeping’ A Sermon on Romans 12:19 and Revelation 21:1-4

“Known knowns, known unknowns,” and the New Testament

As in previous years certain posts have had real staying power. Many of these are sermons that desperate preachers found on search engines. For example, my sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent was the number one entry if you Googled “Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent.” Consequently, I saw extraordinary spikes in traffic the week before.

So here are my all-time top ten posts since I started “When I Survey . . .” in 2009:

Why did Jesus refer to Herod as “That fox” in Luke 13:32”?

“Rejoice! Rejoice!” A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent

“Prayer for a Retired Pastor“

God Gives the Growth,” A Retirement Sermon

“The Lord Will Provide:” A Sermon on Genesis 22

“There is nothing to be afraid of!” A Sermon on Psalm 27:1-2

An Ordination Sermon: The Secret Sauce of Ministry. A Recipe in Two Parts

“God With Us” A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

“Behind Locked Doors” A Sermon on John 20:24

“The Message of the Cross” A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:23-25

Another milestone for this blog is that it reached 100 followers this year. So I thank you all for your interest and support. Come back and visit now and again in 2017.

My Top Ten Posts from 2015

winter-header-3

Once again as the old year passes and the new year beckons, it is my custom to look back at my most popular posts of the year. Here in order are the most visited new posts from 2015:

“The Message of the Cross” A Sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:23-25

“Taking the Long View” Reflections of a Retired Pastor

“The God of the Far Off” Toward the Ministry of Inclusion

“The Cross and the Church: The Soteriology and Ecclesiology of P. T. Forsyth”

I was ordained forty years ago today

What I Love about the Gospel of Luke

“He’s Back!” A Christmas Story with a Happy Ending

“Better Late Than Never” Reflections on women in ministry.

“Come Here by the Waters” A Baptismal Hymn

Rick’s salade niçoise

 And desperate preachers (of whom there seem to be many) and other net surfers brought in a surprising number of hits to my archived material from other years (“Ten Highly Effective Strategies . . .” for example, had a three-day run with over 9,000 hits, which speaks well either of people’s appreciation for satire or for the poor morale of the clergy.) In either case here are the ten most visited posts from previous years on this blog in 2015, which I began in 2009:

 Ten Highly Effective Strategies for Crushing your Pastor’s Morale

Why did Jesus refer to Herod as “That fox” in Luke 13:32”?

Prayer for a Retired Pastor

“Rejoice! Rejoice!” A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent

“God Gives the Growth:” A Retirement Sermon

“The Lord Will Provide:” A Sermon on Genesis 22

“Behind Locked Doors” A sermon on John 20:24-29

“There is nothing to be afraid of!” A sermon on Psalm 27:1-2

“Anticipation”: A Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent (Year C)

An Ordination Sermon: “The Secret Sauce of Ministry. A Recipe in Two Parts”

Thanks so much for dropping by, and keep visiting in 2016.

“Taking the Long View” Reflections of a Retired Pastor

Presiding(This is a talk I gave to “The Saints” which is the United Church of Christ retired clergy group in the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. The talk was in Cromwell, CT on May 14, 2015)

I’d like to thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I have great respect for ministry as a high and holy calling, and I enjoy the company of ministers. I am proud to be a minister, and this year is the 40th anniversary of my ordination. And it is good to be in the Connecticut Conference. I never served here, but my daughter, Rebecca Floyd Marshall, is an ordained minister here in CT, serving in Westport. If you bump into her at a Conference meeting introduce yourself.

My talk today is entitled “Taking the Long View” which was the title of a UCC STILL SPEAKING Daily Devotional I wrote for March 14 of last year. I see it was re-printed in your newsletter. I’m going to share with you some of my personal back-story behind the writing of this particular devotional.

I began the devotional with an anecdote about Ralph, a congregant of mine in my first church, who owned an apple orchard: “I drove over to see Ralph at his hilltop orchard a week after I had presided over his wife’s funeral and burial. He was well into his nineties and they had been married for seven decades. I was all of twenty-seven. It took me awhile to find him, because he was out planting apple trees. He seemed glad to see me and said, “You may wonder why I am planting trees that I will never live to see bear fruit. But it’s what I have always done, and I am not going to stop now. There were apple trees in this orchard when I came here that somebody else had planted, and there will be apple trees here after I’m gone.”

I’ve held onto Ralph’s words for forty years, and lately they have helped me as I think about what it means to be a retired minister. That hasn’t been easy for me. Because when I left my role as a pastor it seemed, at first, and for a long while, like the loss of my calling as a minister. Now I have come to realize that, although I am no longer a pastor of a congregation, I am still a minister. When I turned 65 the UCC Pension Boards mailed me a good little book by Paul Clayton entitled Called for Life (Perhaps you all got one, too). I love the play on words in the title, and I do believe we are “called for life” in both senses of the phrase.  Continue reading

Prayer for a Retired Pastor

In the several months since I started this blog I have had quite a number of visits from people doing a Google search for “Retired Pastor.” Many of them are looking for things to say at a retirement for their pastor, a farewell sermon or a prayer. Instead they have found things like long treatises on eschatology, rants about the Red Sox, and borscht recipes.

Never being one to want to disappoint I decided to write a prayer for a retired pastor. I may be retired, but I can still write a prayer. So here it is. I started out writing a rather generic one with (name) and (his/her), but it came out eerily disembodied. So I fell back on an ancient practice, and called my retiring pastor Theophilus, the addressee of Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts, a name that translates from the Greek roughly as “friend of God,” or “beloved of God.” Since I never knew Theophilus I just wrote the kind of things that I would have liked to have been prayed when I retired, so in a sense this prayer is, at least partly, for myself.

Prayer for a Retired Pastor

Almighty and ever-living Father, before whose face the generations rise and fall, we give you thanks and praise for all the blessings of this day, and for all the ways, in season and out of season, that you provide for us.

In this season, on this day, we invoke your Holy presence upon this congregation as it gathers in memory and hope to thank and bless this, your servant, Theophilus, at the conclusion of his active ministry.

We give you thanks for those early promptings of your gentle Spirit that stirred his heart to consider this holy calling. As “young men shall see visions and old men shall dream dreams,” we praise you for the persistent vision that led him through long years of service as a minister of your Word.

We thank you for bestowing the necessary graces upon him for carrying out the work to which you called him. Through trials and temptations your eternal presence strengthened and comforted him. In the dry seasons you provided him with living waters to restore his soul. Your unseen hand supported him with the courage needed for the struggles to make real the love of Jesus Christ by word and deed. In the face of disappointments you surprised him again and again with unexpected joy.

Lord God, without whose daily grace none could stand, we earnestly entreat you now to forgive Theophilus all his shortcomings and failures in your service, and to endow him with a calm mind and a peaceful heart as he concludes his days of active service. Remind him that your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts, and that the seeds he sowed and planted and watered during his ministry often only bear fruit in your good time, unseen and unknown except by you.

Our times are in your hands, O God. Bless Theophilus now in this new season of his life and this new chapter in his calling, that his remaining years may be full and fruitful, and assure him of his place, by your grace, among the great cloud of witnesses, living and dead, who have witnessed to your truth and lived out your love. And when his days come to an end grant him the gift of peace and the assurance of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.