I have to pinch myself frequently these days. Who says "you can't go home again"? As I sit here reflecting and punching out these lines, I realize that I am but about 6 miles from where I grew up, and Sunday I will be preaching at the church (just 4 miles) where in the summer of 1959 I gave my heart to Christ (almost 50 years ago? Ouch! But Wow!), the same church where in December of 1964 I started my first pastorate. (44 years! Pardon me - another Wow!)
This time of separation most recent, after 5 1/2 years of ministry with the folks of western Kentucky is, to be sure, a special sorrow of sweet joy. We've grown attached to a people who responded to our ministry of missions with a refreshing enthusiasm. Watching them blossom into "on-mission mindedness" is like having a child grow into his unique potentials. Sweet! And to realize that I had a special time in bringing them to their next phase and new equipping leader, yet another pleasing flavor of God's spices for His children's spiritual tastebuds. A sorrow of separation, indeed, for all of those I may not again see this side of heaven's gate!
Now before us, aside from the piles of "stuff" we seem to have collected over these 44 years of ministry moves, is the sweet flavor of something else a-cookin' on the proverbial stove of life. There's extended family that's now closer in distance than they've been in over 30 years, and though our parents are all gone to glory, we've their memory to sit and enjoy together as we pass it on to the next generation who didn't have them as long as we. Another sweet sorrow may we be faithful to spoon out to our kids and theirs!
Another recipe that's still in the prep stages is that which God is cookin' up for this next phase of ministry. Nope! Retirement does not mean just a sittin' around a doin' nuthin'. It means perhaps, using all of this we've learned in the kitchen of life to help create a whole buffet of sweets for others who need to discover what God has prepared for them who would be hungry for Him! Part of the sweetness I'm beginning to realize is the freedom of schedule to explore some new recipes for ministry application. Preaching, teaching, drama presentations, singing, in addition to writing, perhaps doing some art I've had on a back burner a simmerin' for a while. Add to it a partner in the kitchen with me, and bring on the groceries!
Now, lest you've gotten lost in the analogy of my blog, let me share a few reflections on the theme as God gives it to us through the picture of His Son's separation of sorrow and sweetness.
The Psalmist writes in 34:8, "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him."
Beyond our imagination is the sweetness of the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eternity past, and the unity of mind and heart that they "tasted". So much so that they willed it to spill over into their loved and creative focus, man. They not only set us down at the table to enjoy their spiritual culinary, but they brought us into the kitchen, and there to aid us in preparing some of the dishes, too.
One such offering was the sweet savour of the Incarnate Saviour! This kingly meal was served first in a "bowl of straw" in a stable. No candles on this table, but a single chandelier of starlight graced the repast! Consider this though, the sweetness enjoyed was produced out of the sorrow of separation as the Son left the Father's side, and the sorrow would not be finished until the greater separation took place on the cross of Golgotha, when the Father would turn His back on the Son because of man's sin He took upon Himself. Purposed in the mind of God, just as the fire of a kitchen stove is intended to release the sweetness of cane, the Son's death and descent to conquer the flames of hell itself were required to bring salvation's sweetness to man's table. A sweet sorrow, indeed. and in deed!
One realization is that in our lives, too, is this magnificent separation of sweet sorrow reflected. It is revealed when we trust in the Lord, and follow in His steps of self sacrifice for the "feeding" of the souls of others. It is seen again and again as we apply ourselves to the kitchen task of preparing a heavenly repast for hungry humanity. Oh, the delight of the kitchen! And, Oh, the faces of those who are served a dish of heaven's best. What sweetness for the cook and for the one who tastes and eats what only God's pantry can provide!
Be encouraged. Taste the Lord and see that He is good.