Pastors letter for Lent 2020: Thoughts on retirement. Last year I breezed past a couple of milestones. In April I turned 65 and in November I began to draw a small British pension (most of my work life having been spent in the USA). In June I celebrated 40 years of ‘employment’ in the ordained ministry and naturally began to think about retirement. Now most of the membership of Christ church is already retired, probably 95%, so there ought to be a good deal of wisdom out there to draw upon. This wisdom could be shared with a good proportion of the 13,000 Brits living in Brittany who are here for retirement. We must remember that there are plenty of English speakers who are younger and live or study here and they are vital to CCB also. The main point I wish to get across is that a Christian may retire from employment, but never from Christian service. Retirement could be the most fruitful and rewarding season of our lives if we approach it with Godly wisdom.
John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and called you so that you might bear fruit – fruit that will last – and whatever you ask in My Father’s name, He will give it to you.”
Here are some witty gems I found, which sum up the realities of retirement. How true are they for you?
“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.”
“When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband but only half the income.”
“I advise you to go on living solely to enrage those who are paying your annuities. It is the only pleasure I have left.”
“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” “A retired husband is often a wife’s full-time job.”
“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” – Sophia Loren
“They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green” Psalm 92:14
You probably already know that 65 is not the age to retire! It’s an age to re-fire, re-boot, and re-focus on your calling, influence, and ministry. It’s a time to pursue purpose, not pastime. Men and women approaching retirement age should be recycled for public service work. We can no longer afford to scrap-pile people with a lifetime of wisdom and experience. The Church especially values its elders and throughout the Bible there is a positive role for them in the life of any congregation and community. Here are some headings to think about which might help us see retirement in a Christian way. Think about them, reflect on the questions at the end, and please respond to me if you want to contribute to the conversation about godly retirement.
Stewardship: We realize retirement may extend for thirty years or longer. The reality of longevity demands that we see all retirement seasons as a resource to be appreciated, embraced, valued, and to faithfully steward. We are committed to healthy living. This is only common sense but it’s amazing how it escapes some people.
Love: We acknowledge that people matter to God, and we cultivate our hearts for others. As we grow closer to God, He will give us the capacity and opportunity to revitalize valued relationships and have greater Kingdom impact on those He puts in our path.
Community: We need community and connection with others in authentic relationship. Our retirement years are best spent in community. It is in community with family, friends, fellow believers, plus the weak, poor and disenfranchised where we both learn and serve.
Intentionality: We recognize that our calling ends at death, not retirement. Our entire lives are designed for a purpose. We can continue to grow spiritually and emotionally. This allows God to redeem our past mistakes, revitalize broken relationships and strengthen our commitment to our unique calling. We will follow His purpose, bear fruit, and experience the joy of being a disciple of Jesus.
Service: We live “on mission” for Jesus, representing Him to others. God calls each of us to be on mission during every stage of life. An important role for those in retirement is to pass on wisdom learned and encouragement to the next generation. Coaching, mentoring, volunteering, and being Godly grandparents are valuable opportunities available to us. “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Psalm 71 I wish to return to the topic of retirement often in the pages of the newsletter because it is a present reality for all of us. But more seriously because I want to know how God wants to use our retirement. Therefore I invite you to contribute to the discussion by responding to these three questions.
Q1: What is your purpose in life?
Q2: How does retirement promote that purpose?
Q3: What is one thing you can do now to embrace that purpose more fully?
Psalm 92:12-14 “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.”