TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO THE GITTITH. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah (Psalms 84.1-4).
I have been listening to Dan Fogelberg’s The Innocent Age recently. There is a line in one of his songs that has stayed in my mind: ”Friends we knew, follow us through All of the days of our lives.” Simple enough. But within that line, I am thinking of the collection of lives, like baskets of beautiful flowers, that we now carry in our hearts. Friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, who follow us through all of the days of our lives. I am thinking about them today.
For you see, one of the heartaches of pastoral ministry is saying goodbye. But one of the glories of the ministry is keeping the flock of Jesus in your heart forever. I have found that I cannot shepherd a flock of Jesus and then just forget them. Indeed, as one is moved by the Lord of the harvest from one field another, it is like gathering flowers from each field and taking them with you to the next. And at sometime, you pause. And as you rest, you remember. You remember the hard, yes that is true. But you also remember the good, the beautiful, the kind acts of love. And you remember the joys of serving Jesus together.
Recently, the choir of First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga commissioned a painting of the stained glass windows of our church there. I used to look at those windows each week. They were good friends to me that reminded me, in their grandeur and majesty, of the transcendence and awe of worshipping the living God. And to see them now, in this beautiful picture, gracing our wall, allows me to enter again into those sacred memories of the golden moments of worship in that beautiful, soaring sanctuary.
It is true that in the ministry, it is certain that you will get hurt. Our Lord did. And we are but His servants. But you will also be blessed beyond anything you will ever deserve. That is what I have experienced. And all of this reminds me again, “There is no higher honor than shepherding the flock of Christ.” For at the end of your life the fragments of flowers, the memory and beauty of all of those souls, will be the essence and joy of your life that you will take to heaven with you.