Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, NRSV)
This Sunday, as we always do, we will worship God. But we are adding a special element to worship. We will also thank The Reverend Doctor David Kaiser-Cross. We will be thanking him on the fortieth anniversary of his ordination into ministry. And we will be thanking him at the time of his retirement.
I first met and visited with David at a Florida Conference UCC continuing education event in Coral Gables, Florida over a boxed lunch. I knew who he was because I was attempting to recruit his spouse to our Clergy Team (but she had already turned me down due to different plans). The lunch flew by as we talked about our unique churches, our roles (me having once served as an Executive Minister too), life in large churches, etc. We both found the conversation invigorating and insightful.
On the drive home that evening, I kept thinking about what a powerful, yet quiet and unassuming dynamic David would bring to our Clergy Team and staff. The next morning, I called our Moderator and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees to ask if we could make it work structurally and financially. They were open to the conversation. Then I called the chairperson of our search committee, who was intrigued as well.
The search committee invited David over to visit with us about his philosophy of ministry and how he managed his former congregation. He talked about a “team approach” to ministry that empowered staff alongside boards, committees, and task forces. And suddenly, it was a love fest of sorts. The next thing I knew, we were restructuring our staff model and budget to accommodate a different way of thinking about ministry, and David and Deb were on their way from the other coast of Florida.
And now our congregation has been given a tender responsibility. We get to hold David in the collective palm of our hands, lift him to God, give thanks for this faithful servant, and release him to enjoy rest, leisure, time away from a laptop, email, and cell phone. Release him from the constant demands of pastoral ministry and around-the-clock care and concern for us. Release him to enjoy time with his spouse, children, and grandchildren more fully. And my deepest longing is that we will release him to the freedom to breathe and be reminded of how deeply he is loved by each of us and by God. And that is my deepest longing for each of us today. That we will know how deeply we are loved by God.
Well done, faithful one – my dear friend and colleague. You are a gift to our church and to me. Thank you for saying yes to God 40 years ago and thank you for saying yes to Naples UCC when we called four years ago.
Prayer Focus: Gratitude for the ministry of Rev. Dr. David Kaiser-Cross
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for David. Amen.