There is an older song by Jimmy Buffet that is titled, “A Pirate Looks at Forty.” It was later followed up by a book, “A Pirate Looks at Fifty.” In both the song and the book, the writer looks back at his life’s successes and failures. In the end he decides that he is who he is and is happy with both the triumphs and failures of life. Moving my personal clock past 50 led me to look back at my life, just like the song and the book.
A preacher’s life is one that is slightly out of sync with what is normal. Success is not measured by the usual signs. I will likely never achieve the traditional hallmarks of success. Planes, cars and houses are not where one who is called to preach the Word of God looks for validation. Oh, some of these may come, that is true, but these are not the signs of success a preacher looking at 50, or 60, or 70 looks for.
Where one who preaches the Word of God finds success is in the fulfillment of that Word. God’s Word is true. That means all His promises. Even those that are given by His unworthy servant. His promise of forgiveness that is offered in absolution, the promise of strength, faith and forgiveness, given in Holy Communion, His promise of faith and salvation in the water and Word of Holy Baptism. These are promises that God made, and that God will keep.
The joy of this preacher looking at more than 50 is that I have been a part of God’s Word and promise for 15 years. I have been able to see God’s promise made and have seen the lives of people called by the Word, forgiven and strengthened to go on through difficulty, and I can be confident that their faith at the end of life, faith given to them by God, led them to hear those wonderful words, “Well done my good and faithful servant,” Matthew 25:23.
That promise, that hope, that sure knowledge of what is to come ties the one privileged to proclaim God’s promise close to God’s people with beautiful bands of silk. I look back at the people who have heard God’s Word, through me or in spite of me, I look at the tragedy and the tears of years of funerals, and the joy and tears of years of weddings and baptisms, and confirmations, the forgiveness that I have shared and been given.
I look at the lives of those God has called me to shepherd and I may not come to the conclusion that I am good, or that life is good, but I certainly rest on the rock-solid certainty that God is good. As this preacher looks past 50, I see the people that God has surrounded me with, a great cloud of witnesses, and I am thankful for them, God’s strong Word and His promise that lasts forever and ever. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria.
Reverend Andrew Becker is Pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, Buena Vista. He can be contacted at email@example.com