A priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years serving the parish. A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and give a little speech at the dinner. He was late getting there, so the priest decided to say his own few words while they waited.
“I got my first impression of the parish from the very first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person that entered my confessional told me that he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it. He had stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his boss’ wife, and took illegal drugs. I was appalled. But as the days went on I knew that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people.”
Just as the priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and gave his talk. “I’ll never forget the first day our parish priest arrived,” said the politician. “In fact, I had the honor of being the very first person to go to him for confession.”
Now, being a Protestant Pastor, I do not believe that Christians need any human intermediary between themselves and Almighty God. The Holy Bible tells us in the New Testament Book of Hebrews (chapter 4, verses 15-17):
14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
That being said, my purpose here is not to cast aspersions at either Roman Catholicism or those who adhere to its tenets. Rather, it is to point out that any clergyman who comes to that inevitable time of retirement can testify to similar experiences.
Needless to say, given that this coming Sunday will be my last Sunday in the pulpit before I officially retire from the pastoral ministry and transition to a writing ministry, I have been doing a lot of reflecting back on the 40 plus years I have spent in Pastoral ministry.
In that time, to be sure, there have been some difficult stretches. But praise the Lord, I am happy to report that there have been far, far more positive experiences than negative ones. What is more, for the most part at least, I like to think that I was able to help those who came to me in their time of need; just as my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, did for me.
Accordingly, I pray that all of those whose paths I have crossed have in some way been uplifted as a result.
Perhaps the biggest blessing one can take away from his or her interaction with others is the testimony of the Apostle Paul in when he said to the Christians at Philippi (chapter 1, verse 3): “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you…”
I am thankful of reach and every fellow believer I have had the privilege to minister with and to. And I trust they can say the same of me. If so, that is reward enough for the ministry God gave me!