‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,The very first sermon I ever preached was in the fall of 1974. I had recently announced my call to the ministry in the church we had joined. I was soon asked to speak to the boys and girls in children’s church, which was conducted in the chapel of Terre Haute First UMC. In my talk to them, I attempted to explain that even if, per impossibile, God were not all-powerful, he would still deserve our worship because he is all-good. And then, to make the point, I tossed off the phrase, “And if pigs had wings, we’d all eat flying pork.” Later that day, little Tommy Clayton was asked by his parents what Art had said in children’s church, and all Tommy could remember was that one odd phrase.
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax -
Of cabbages — and kings -
And why the sea is boiling hot -
And whether pigs have wings.’— Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
And now, I am looking ahead to my last sermon. Oh, it probably won’t be the last time I ever preach, but it will be the last sermon I preach under full-time appointment; certainly, the last sermon I preach as your pastor. I’m thinking about calling it “The Last Word.”
For, as you are probably aware by now, I announced my impending retirement earlier this month. I mentioned it off-handedly as part of an announcement about our Venturers’ trip to Switzerland. Journalists call that “burying the lede.” It has caused a bit of confusion, I hear. But I really didn’t want to kill the service stone-dead with a great big stopper on what should be a day of celebration.
There is still the greater part of five months of ministry to share with you before the day comes for me to lay down my responsibilities. That’s a long time to say good-bye. There’s time to get some important things done before then. Still, the time will come, and soon enough. There will be some things I will need to say to you, and things you will need to say to me, and I want to be open to that: words of appreciation, of forgiveness, of love. But if I don’t get everything said to you that I wish, or you don’t get everything said to me that you wish, then let these lines of Art Garfunkel say this for us both:
But the ending always comes at last
endings always come too fast,
they come too fast, but they pass too slow,
I love you and that’s all I know.
Love and prayers,
— Art Collins