Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Matthew 17:4 (NRSV)
Peter is ecstatic. He has experienced a moment that transcends all others in his life. It is a holy moment that reveals to him the power and majesty and awe of Jesus as he witnesses the transfiguration. It is his mountaintop experience. He wants to stay there on top of the mountain alongside Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Who wouldn’t? Can you imagine the theological dialogue that would have taken place? It must have been quite a discussion to witness. (It would put Pub Theology to shame!) In the presence of these three titans of the faith, the sense of peace and the power of the presence of the Lord would have infused every molecule of Peter’s being. It is no wonder he didn’t want to leave.
It is fully part of our human condition that we want to keep and preserve things so that they will stay the same, and we can experience the joy and happiness to which we are accustomed. But life is never really like that. As much as we would like to stay on the mountaintop, we also have to descend to the lowlands. Peter had to come down from the mountain in order for Jesus’ ministry and mission to be fulfilled. If Jesus stayed up on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, humanity would not have received the benefit of the resurrection. The world would not have been blessed by the passionate ministry of Peter and the apostles if Peter had stayed on the mountaintop.
Like Peter, I am facing my own journey from the mountaintop into the valley of uncertainty. My time at Calvary will end on the 31st of May. It has been a wonderful journey of discovery. It has been transformational for me as I have
discovered my pastoral identity, been challenged to improve my preaching, and have experienced wonderful and fruitful dialogue about all things theological at Pub Theology and in private conversation. More importantly, I have been welcomed into a community that has allowed me to grow, has enthusiastically supported my seminary journey, has gently corrected me when I have made mistakes (and accepted my profound apologies!), and has welcomed me into the sacred narrative of their lives. Who wouldn’t want to stay in a place like that?
Like Peter, I have to remember that God’s plans are not my own. My sorrow at leaving this fellowship is tempered by the many pleasant and fond memories of my time here and the people with whom serving in ministry was such a joy. I am sure that Peter’s memory of the transfiguration sustained and uplifted him when he found doubt or trouble. I am sure that my memories of ministry and the people of Calvary will sustain me when I am faced with doubt and insecurity. My time at Calvary has been transformational. I cannot say thank you enough to express what Calvary has meant to me and my family.
I would put up a tent and I would stay, but God is calling me down the mountain, to the next chapter of my life. I know that my leaving also allows others to experience the wonderful community of people here at Calvary, and in turn they will be blessed and learn and grow from their adventures in ministry. I am excited to see the next chapter in Calvary’s life and I know that with God’s help it will continue to be a blessing to Federal Way and the surrounding areas.
Yours in Christ,
13 The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?’ 15 Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.’ 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. 18 You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. 19 Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people
After God had liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, life shifted for the people. No longer bound by the daily drudgery of someone else dictating their days, now they had to learn to get along with each other in freedom. So Moses shifted from being their liberator to being their arbiter—he “judged” the people, that is, settled their disputes with each other.
The Bible is full of stories about God’s people needing to shift gears and adapt to new circumstances. (See Acts 6 for the story of the apostles seeking lay leaders to coordinate community social services, for another example.) It’s what the faithful need to do: Read the times, evaluate the demands on leadership, and adjust. That’s a change you will see happening in Calvary’s leadership this year too.
On February 10, at the first meeting of the 2015 Church Council, the Council elected four people into leadership on the Management Team: Paula Fowler, President; Larry Reintsma, Vice President; Pam Prescott, Secretary; and Jackie Russo, Member at Large. Sounds pretty typical so far, but take a closer look (if you are at all inclined to read council minutes, that is), and you will see that we are asking these leaders to take on specific responsibilities that we hope will lighten the load for everyone. Paula will preside at the Council meetings and provide leadership for both the Management Team and Council, but Paula will be assisted in her presidential responsibilities by Jackie Russo, who will develop the Management Team agenda and the preliminary Council agenda each month and preside at Management Team meetings. Our hope is that “many hands make for lighter work.” I also feel confident that many minds committed to the task will make for more creative and collaborative leadership—which will benefit us all. Larry will be giving special attention to the task calendar items that affect personnel and budget planning for the congregation. And Pam will serve as our veteran secretary, making sure we say what we are doing, and do what we say we want to get done.
Paula, Jackie, Larry, and Pam have committed themselves to these tasks. And now they need our support, encouragement, and feedback. The work that they have before them will sometimes be daunting—they are acting both as church leaders and as (State of Washington) corporation leaders. But they have accepted their respective responsibilities because they love this congregation, and they want to see Calvary thrive. Please pray for them in their leadership. Please pay attention when they ask for your support and expertise.
When Moses followed his father-in-law Jethro’s advise (and God’s command) to let others “bear the burden” with him, not only was Moses’ load lightened, but the people benefitted. May this new way of leading not only lighten our leaders’ burdens, but set the tone for shared leadership and greater creativity in all our ministry and life together at Calvary.
Thanks be to God.
Your Sister in Christ,
Pastor Lori Cornell