There is wisdom in knowing one’s limits. There is wisdom in knowing one’s abilities. The news this week is that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning, the first to do so in 600 years. There have been numerous times in my career as a pastor when I have felt the need to counsel someone on their abilities and limits as it pertains to the offices of the Presbyterian Church, or being a church school teacher, or a staff member. I have had to consider myself whether it was time to resign a position, whether it be on a committee or as an installed pastor of a congregation. None of these decisions are easy. Sometimes we have the tendency to stay in a position because we are simply used to it. Other times it’s because we fear nobody else will pick it up, and we can’t stand to see it go. And yet other times a protectionist perspective consumes us and we fear our work will fade into the oblivion of history. Or we might feel quitting or ending our leadership is “giving up” or “weakness.” But there is wisdom in knowing when it is time to say goodbye.
I remember entering seminary with the intention of being a full-time youth pastor. I hoped and prayed that when or if the day should come when I could no longer serve particularly as a youth pastor, that I would acknowledge it by God’s grace, and move on, trusting that God will lead someone else to use their gifts to do the work and ministry to which I had been called.
According to the Apostle Paul all things will come to an end, but God’s love will never fade. I have said many times over the years that we Christians are not in the business of boosting our local church or boosting our own brand. Rather, we are in the business of building up the Body of Christ—all of God’s children all around the world regardless of color, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or even beliefs or anything else that may divide us or separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
All things come to an end, but in God, there is always a new beginning. As Pope Benedict brings his time as the holy father of the Roman Catholic Church to a close, he transitions into a new role as chief prayer for the new pope and the Church—and what an incredibly important and faithful role that is. No matter one’s age, no matter one’s stage, no matter one’s status, there is always something one can do to build up the Body of Christ—something to reflect upon as we enter into Ash Wednesday today and the season of Lent. Blessings upon Pope Benedict, blessings upon Christ’s Church worldwide in all her forms and expressions, and blessings upon us as we continue to seek God’s wisdom for our individual and collective lives, our individual and collective calling, our individual and collective endings as well as our new beginnings.