September 18, 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a last lecture. He shared with the class his PT scans and how, even though he appeared energetic and full of life in front of them, he would soon die of Pancreatic Cancer. Randy’s lecture may be viewed on YouTube. Randy shared his experience in a book by the same name, Last Lecture.
There is a note of finality to every last thing you do. The last night that you were single. The last meal with a friend who was leaving. The last day on the job. The last day your child was at home. The last time you remember seeing someone alive. No matter how you think of those moments in the future, there is a certain finality about last moments.
There is a tendency to cram a lot of things into your last moments, ie Jack Nicholson’s BUCKET LIST, do things or say things that you have always wanted to say but did not get around to it. (remember the ROUND TUIT) Gee what would I like to say before moving on?
There is a tendency to want to set things right to tell your side of the story before moving on. This is partly the desire felt by many “Tell All” authors or exposee Wiki Link informers who have publicly “ratted” on friends, associates and families telling their view of the way things transpired.
And so, present company accepted, I have been wondering, as I sit in the wee hours of the morning, what I should say in my last sermon as pastor of Fruita United Methodist. Tomorrow is my last day, my last worship service with that congreagtion. What if this is my last sermon, not only here, but anywhere? What needs to be said that almost 700 previous opportunities have not afforded.
I think the first word needs to be one of gratitude.
In My Name is Asher Lev Chaim Potok tells a touching story, “And I pondered the way my father once looked at a bird lying on its side against the curb near our house. It was Shabbos and we were on our way back from synagogue.
“’Is it dead, Papa?’ I was six and could not bring myself to look at it.
“’Yes,’ I heard him say in a sad and distant way.
“’Why did it die?’
“Everything that lives must die.’
“’You, too Papa? And Mama?’
“’Yes,’ he said. Then he added in Yiddish, ‘But may it be only after you live a long and good life, my Asher.’
“I couldn’t grasp it. I forced myself to look at the bird. Everything alive would one day be
as still as that bird?
“’Why?’ I asked.
“’That’s the way the Ribbono Shel Olom made his world, Asher.’
“’So life would be precious, Asher. Something that is yours forever is never precious.’”
I would like to say that my life has been precious, and that this opportunity of 14 years has been particularly precious. I have had my share of naiveté and down right stupidity, my share of inadequacy and disability (we are disabled in many ways, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently). I have had great love and I have loved greatly. I have struggled with my Lord almost all my life. My life of faith, I think, would rightly be characterized as a blessed struggle. Not unlike Jacob at the Jabbok.
I have been given opportunities to lead far beyond my ability at the time. I have sometimes risen to the occasion and sometimes fallen short. I have been blessed (though sometimes felt cursed) by having others with whom to share the ministry for Jesus Christ. I am reminded of the Taoist story about the Chinese farmer who responded to every situation in his life with a sense of non-attachment. “Maybe, Maybe Not” he would reply.
An old farmer, who had worked his crops for many years, one day discovered his horse had run away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
There have been things that I thought I just had to do, that could just as well have been left undone and things I thought that I could not allow to happen, that I have later discovered were the very things that needed to be done. I have put value in things that did not matter and missed things that mattered most, and yet I am a much different person as a result of my attempts at providing ministry in the name of Christ Jesus.
This is to say I have lived a normal life and found myself growing in the process. Through it all I have come to know and experience the presence of my Lord. I have learned not to take my self or others too seriously, but to appreciate the innate worth of all who come my way.
New directions are ahead of me. I do not know what the horizon will bring, but I move onward in hope and thanksgiving for the opportunities that will come. Thank you for being apart of my life and for sharing of yourselves in this journey of the spirit.