As we heard, it was quite an arduous journey that our Pilgrim ancestors withstood, to make it here to our own particular corner of North America. Sixty-five days on the high seas, over high waves and strong storms; crammed into the ‘tween deck of a rickety wooden ship; 102 of them (104 if you count the dogs), crammed into a space no more than 75 or 80 feet long and 25 feet across (and only 5 or 6 feet high). Sixty-five days. You can bet no one said “Time flies when you’re having fun.” No-- no doubt, they felt every hour of all of those sixty-five days. But, as William Bradford said, “They knew they were pilgrims,” and, as such, they felt the deep, inner impact of the journey in which they were engaged.
We are each on our own journey, of course; our own journey through life. A journey with at least its own share of challenges and discomfort—though, usually, thankfully, nothing like that which the Pilgrims withstood. So sometimes (maybe even often) we do say, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Or we just say, “Time flies.” Because it does. The twinkling of an eye, and twenty years, give or take, have passed. Our journey meets one milestone, and heads toward another. Common journeys shared as one come to a fork in the road, and go their separate ways.
It hasn’t been all fun, this journey we have shared for over 19 years now; this journey that will, slowly, surely, draw to a close over the next three seasons. Even the best vacations, the most pleasurable trips are seldom all fun. Important life journeys—like jobs, and relationships, and marriages, and raising children—never are all fun. There are always going to be challenges and frustration mixed in amidst the joy; that’s what makes them real.
As I contemplate the conclusion of my journey as your minister here in Stoughton, my thoughts first turn to all those dear souls, dear friends, who have passed from our presence over the past nineteen years. And I am humbled by the privilege of having known such wonderful people. And humbled, as always, by the sheer privilege of having been your minister.
No, it hasn’t been all fun. Life isn’t. But I remain convinced, increasingly as the years have passed, that we have cultivated a higher fun-to-frustration ratio in our time together than anyone else in similar circumstances could have done. We have been as well matched, you and I, in temperament and disposition as minister and congregation could be. The Search Committee did a good job back in 1993. You have done a good job! Maybe even I have done a good job!
I could not have asked for better fellow-pilgrims with whom to share this part of my life’s journey.
You have been so kind to me, and to my family, over these past nineteen years. You have shown me the graciousness and hospitality that is at the heart of this dear church. Perhaps that is what we have to offer a world which needs it so very badly: a radical hospitality—a generosity of spirit—a deep sense of acceptance-- which will continue, long after I’m gone, to welcome all people, whoever they are, wherever they have been, wherever they are along the journeys of their lives, not as strangers, but as dear fellow pilgrims.
At this season of Thanksgiving, I will continue to shake my head in wonder and delight at whatever force it was (and I believe it was the grace of God) which brought me here to minister among you, and walk this road, and sail this sea, side by side with you, my fellow pilgrims.
Thanks be to God for that.