The days come back to living the life. And more and more as the years go on, I think about that. About how any of us does that. Of how we look to Jesus and try to pattern our lives after His – knowing full well that, earth-bound, and sin-laden, we will be only glinting reflectors, sending back rays of the Son that land on some pond of our being and send a flash of something from beyond, that others see.
In the midst of all our work at faithfulness we know we are marked by the smudges of dirty, muddy planet earth, and so, at best, are only partial.
My children are dear to me, each one so different, and they know my fathering failures, and yet are so forgiving.
The church I served the longest in my life, gave me opportunity for the greatest adventures in ministry, yet in the end a couple of dozen of my friends worked to get me gone. There would be no talk of second chances, nor even departure packages. I didn’t know how to ride out that last year or so. In five or six “listening sessions,” I heard the complaints, and the things I stood for that were failed leadership in their eyes. The biggest issues were spiritual ones – my leading the church into the things of the Holy Spirit, the Baptism. The gifts. The power for change. I preached on, as faithfully as I knew how, and went to the sick and stood by the dying, and married, and buried, and baptized (in the lake, yet!) and taught the dear 14-year-olds in Confirmation. And left, as I promised, with 32 years completed, and nowhere else to go.
And discovered that, out there, waiting for Molly and me, thanks to World Vision, was a mission to the world, of reconciliation, and a few friends gathered ‘round and raised funds enough to establish the whole new ministry call The Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation.
And in going to the dark places of betrayal and hurt in Rwanda in the Great Lakes of Africa, there was healing for hearts and lives and families, and countries of the Genocide. And the Africans, in their need, taught us. And we realized that to do it right over there, we had to face “the beloved” of the church I’d hurt so much, and say sorry, and ask forgiveness. And my successors, David from Boston, at great risk, labored to make possible an evening service of 400 - 500 folks, and repent, and receive from them the anointing oil of forgiveness. Which began our own healing, and helped change so much.
Twenty-five more years of ministry awaited us and blessed us – and our family, and, I believe, that wonderful Colonial company.
Life, of course, goes on, and people struggle and churches struggle. And God heals hearts and allows ministers to be forgiven and go on, and for churches to do the same.
Until, 25 years later the world turns upside down in pandemic, and murder, and a country looking at its own heart and trying to repent, and change.
And, who know what’s ahead for the country we love, and the church we love, and so many people we love. And, we struggle to again “live the life.” And pray to understand what life is to be, for all of us, in our time.
Molly and I live in an 800 sq. ft. apartment in a gracious senior living place. It is a new phase and stage for us. It is really the dying place, for that is what us old folks are about: How to live as we die. How we receive the help of young doctors and nurses, and of our own grown children. And live with grace and love.
We pray mightily for so much: for our children and grandchildren. For the life we left behind. For the places and people so dear to our hearts.
And looking always to Home. The life that awaits us on the other side. For the repenting and forgiving and caring and loving that needs to mark these years.
May we be privileged to walk with precious friends and dear children, in faith.
May we all, help each other to do that. The Way of Jesus that He gives us, for “the living of these days.”
Loving you all,
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES