There used to be a tradition in my denomination, to set aside one evening during our Annual Conference, to recognize pastors who were retiring. Each retiree was given an opportunity to speak. Some would simply say, a thank you to everyone. Others would craft a story of an incident that represented their understanding of ministry. A few would talk about an embarrassing ministry moment. Like the pastor who didn’t remember the wedding he was supposed to be doing, until the couple called and asked if he was coming. The wedding was delayed hours, until the errant pastor made it home from his cabin.
One year Richard told a story which took place in his early years of ministry. He was having coffee and conversation with an older colleague. John was complaining about a retired pastor in his church who irritated him. “The problem with Warren is,” John said, “he just loves everybody!”
As Richard reflected on those words, he thought to himself, “If at the end of my life, I’m known for ‘Just loving everybody!’ that would be good.” I suspect John would have been surprised, his critique of Warren, served as a foundational moment to inspire Richard, to live a life of love.
Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry writes, *“While faith, and hope are necessary for a full life, they are not a guide for life. That don’t tell you what to do. That’s love’s job. Love tells you how to direct the energy of outrageous faith. If hope and faith are the wind and sails, love is the rudder. It’s God’s GPS.”
Love was Richard’s GPS. When he died, there was a consensus among the hundreds who gathered, that Richard, “Loved everybody.”
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13 NIV
*Bishop Michael B. Curry, “Love is the Way, Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times” published 2020 Penguin Random House publishing