So, which is it?  Is it winding things up or is it winding things down?  As I am writing this, I am coming to the conclusion that it is a combination of the two – or at least I hope so.  Maybe it’s similar to watches in the “pre-battery” days.  You wound them up and then they would wind down. … (on a side note, I wonder how many people who laugh at the electrification of vehicles still wear a windup watch that was made in Switzerland?)
But I digress.  I cannot believe how much work is involved in winding down – or is that winding up?  First there was the Farewell Tour (almost done).  Then there is the last of this, the last of that, and the last of “what seems like countless other items”.  2022 was filled with the added focus of completing many broad strokes to “prepare the way” for the congregation to be healthy and active in its mission for years to come.  I did not anticipate all of the “finishing strokes” that 2023 would require.  Two tasks (hopefully this number will remain at two) that will not be completed prior to February 19 will be saying a final thank you to many people and cleaning out my office … but I have given myself a February 21 deadline for the latter.
And, while I am discussing this increased workload, I would be remiss if I did not mention how, at the same time, it is multiplying the crunch load on staff and volunteers at STL.  This whole process has placed additional stress all around.  It may well be that what started out as a farewell is turning into a “good riddance” from some!
Perhaps “winding up” is more appropriate for another reason – the emotions and racing mind that embrace (is that the correct term?) the final weeks.  I will certainly miss the personal contacts (which, unfortunately, must radically change if the transition is to be healthy and real).  What I will not miss is the 50-60-hour weeks, the weekly and monthly deadlines, and the responsibility (I have never viewed it as stress).  Thus, I do expect to do some serious personal “winding down” starting on the 21st.
Oh, and then there is the issue of this weekly epistle we have been calling “Thursday’s Thirst” for more than a couple years (does anyone actually recall when it first came out?  I have no idea).  Here is the plan (I have been praying about this, so I am hoping that God is not laughing at this point):  it will be sent out this week and the two weeks following, as usual.  Then I will take a break of at least a month.  When it does finally come back, it will only be sent to those who expressly request to keep receiving it.  To do this, simply send me an email at my new email address:  Requests coming to any other email address or to Saint Thomas will not be processed.  To put things simply, I need some wind down time before I can think about …
So, I am thinking that the correct term, instead of either winding down or winding up, is “flowing in and through”.  Flow, while certainly speaking of ongoing change, also implies continual replenishment.  Thus, amidst the ebbs and intensifications of life, the future is never in danger.  The prophet Jeremiah puts it this way, “Because of the steadfast love of the Lord, we are not cut off; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3.22-26)
And, as I hope you realize, the phrase “flowing in and through” does not just apply to my retirement.  It applies to each and every one of us … on each and every one of the days of our lives.  The Spirit of Jesus – which comes to us through his Word and Sacraments – is constantly working change and replenishment is us throughout our lives … even during those ebbing times when we are restricting the flow of his Word in our lives.  This flow was sealed for us on the day of our baptism.
I just tallied it up this week.  During the final two months of my ministry at STL I will baptize 5 individuals, minister to over a half dozen grieving families, and welcome around a dozen people into the STL family.  And I am handing over a list of nearly 20 additional individuals who may be a step or two away.  What did Paul say?  “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So, neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3.6-7)  The point here is that God is not only at work in our midst today but has plans for the future.
An additional – but equally important point – is this.  Whenever YOU feel wound up tight with nowhere to turn, the fact is you DO have a place to turn – you can “return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2.13)  AND, whenever you are feeling winded or our of sorts, know that “you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” because “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1.7-9) Or, in other words, God is not only at work in your life today, but promises to be so continually throughout your future.
This gets us back to “flowing in and through.”  Leonard Cohen wrote a song (way back in 1948) with the chorus, “Passing through, passing through, sometimes happy, sometimes blue, glad that I ran into you.  Tell the people that you saw me passing through.”  It does not matter whether we are winding up or winding down (or somewhere in-between), the promise to the people of God in Christ Jesus (you and me included) is that – though we are just passing through the lives of others on our way to eternity – the Spirit of Jesus will be flowing in and through us – via the blessings of his Word and Sacrament – every day of our lives.  The past and present are good … the future is bright … and eternity is beyond our imagination … so let’s enjoy our lives (every day) in God’s grace through Christ Jesus.

Winding Up … or Down?