Work, Life, Death: It is All Gift

A 15 hour work day yesterday, beginning at 5:00 AM to do final preparations for the day’s worship.  Two festival services – with Karen Ive’s music leadership, combined choirs and wind ensemble, worship done as well as any congregation celebrating Reformation Sunday.  (The weakness might have been my sermon, which was a bit too much of a theological treatise.  One of the choir members, who had to sit through it twice, said, “I got a lot more out of it the second time I heard it.”  I replied that the written copy would have many footnotes containing even more material that I knew I didn’t have time to speak!)  Leading a discussion on Luther’s Small Catechism in between the services.  Driving to Yorktown, to participate in the Peninsula Conference Reformation service in the afternoon.  Then back to St. Stephen just in time for the College students’ weekly dinner.  Then home, to edit and post the morning’s sermon, and to compose and send out my weekly guidance on the Scripture readings coming up this week in the Daily Lectionary.

I was so tired that I slept in this morning: I didn’t wake up until after 6:00!  (I can’t remember when I’ve slept so late.)

I’ve been sitting in prayer, giving great thanks for yesterday, giving attention to this new week, and giving attention to this time of year, which has returned me to life and death memories since 2006.  Reformation Sunday has brought an end to an intense year of responsibilities for me and a couple of leaders in the congregation, commemorating the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, including two large-scale community events, and numerous study groups.  Reformation Sunday is also an anniversary for me: my Dad died on that day 11 years ago.  And I give thanks for the ability to work a 15 hour day yesterday because, 11 years ago, I was in an ICU myself, in Norfolk, attached to a ventilator, fed through a tube, as the infectious disease doctors at the Eastern Virginia Medical School struggled to diagnose what was taking over my lungs.  (If God gives me one more day of life, tomorrow will begin my 12th year of bonus life.  October 31, 2006 was the day it looked like I would die.)

Every day is a gift, with its opportunities to pause, to pray, to re-center in the blessings of God that come anew each day.  Each day is a gift, time for us to do the work God gives us to do.  If God gives me seven more days, this week will be another important one.  I will enjoy watching the “Luther” movie with the College students tomorrow night, on the actual anniversary date of the Reformation which, of course, is also Halloween.  (I have an idea of how to dress up as Martin Luther.)  And I’ll spend these next days preparing for memorial services for two of our members.  The service for Pete will be this Saturday and the one for Dan will be this Sunday, on the afternoon of All Saints Sunday.

Work, life, death: it is all gift, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Pastor Andy Ballentine

About Pastor Andy Ballentine

Pastor Andy Ballentine retired in July 2019 after 40 years of ordained ministry. He loved serving as a parish pastor! Pastor Ballentine took his BA degree from the University of Virginia (with a major in sociology) and earned the Master of Divinity degree at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He earned the Master of Sacred Theology degree at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with the thesis topic of: "How Benedictine Monastic Spirituality Nourishes Parish Ministry." He has completed the program of Spiritual Direction from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. In the Virginia Synod, Pastor Ballentine has served as Dean of the Peninsula Conference and as chaplain to the candidates in the Virginia Synod’s Candidacy process (those on the way to being approved for ordained and professional ministries in the church). He has staffed many, many Virginia Synod youth events!