Last night at Presbytery we had the send off for Rev Margaret Muir (Glencaple and Lowther) who retires at the end of April. With much laughter, some moments of cringing behind the desk, and obvious genuine love for one of our more entertaining ministers, Presbytery relaxed and celebrated what it meant for Margaret to work for the Lord. Much was made of her legacy and it has to be said that she certainly leaves a legacy. She has taught her congregations about prayer and spirituality, opened up the scriptures and put up with the Vicar of Dibley jokes with good grace. And she shared some of what she hopes to do in the future but recognised that God has a plan for her and she awaits his direction.
Many ministers have retired to live a quiet life of rest and relaxation (and probably pulpit supply). Margaret has hopes to continue to learn more from Scripture and to follow God’s plan for her retirement. She retires from the parish ministry but she isn’t retiring from God’s work and call. For me that is the most powerful legacy of all. And I heard God tell me to pray for her and the parishes she leaves. So with nothing planned and simply the urge to pray I prayed – not with finesse but with genuine love for a woman who has constantly reminded me in the past year that God is greater than the church or me, and all is in His hands.
Reading through the Gospels and of course preparation for Easter can sometimes make us keep Jesus in the past. He becomes a story, a wonderful story of hope and life and overcoming obstacles, but sometimes we lose his legacy in the keeping of traditions. Like those who spoke about Margaret focussed on the past – on what she had done and said, we too put Jesus in the past.
However we must remember that Jesus is somewhat like our Margaret – when he returned to heaven he didn’t retire from God’s work and plan. He retired from parish ministry but he is still working for and with God his Father. When he gave us the simple instruction (!) to go and make disciples he didn’t say it was all up to us because he was retiring from active service. He said he would be with us always, even to the end of the age.
Let’s not treat Jesus as a has-been, retired from active service and put out to pasture. And definitely, let’s not treat him as a wonderful story but let us worship him fully – recognising him as human and divine, Saviour and brother, the Word made flesh.
For when we stop treating Jesus like a story, albeit with a wonderful legacy, then those around us will stop seeing Jesus as a story too.
When Jesus is real to us, he will be real for others.
We are his witnesses for the 21st Century and there is no retirement age.