Burning Myrhh

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Northaven Friends,

I’m burning incense this morning, as I write, journal, and pray here at home. I’m burning Myrrh. Went down the street to Kalachangi’s, here in Old East Dallas, to get some last night. I wanted to burn it today, because of something my therapist reminded me of in our weekly time earlier this week.

She reminded me of how the Magi brought Myrrh to the baby Jesus as a part of a the Christmas story. She reminded me of something which I had learned long ago, but had forgotten….

In the ancient world, and even in some places today, Myrrh was/is used as an embalming spice for the dead. That was one of its primary uses in Jesus’ age and time.

And so, for those with the spiritual eyes to see, a powerful message is embedded in that one, tiny detail of the story of Jesus’ birth. Even at his birth, Jesus’ death is being foreshadowed by the great story-teller, Matthew.

Of course, I am thinking about all this because of the big news that I’ll be leaving Northaven Church at the end of June. First, let me say how terribly grateful I am for the generous and kind comments of so many of you…Northaven friends…community friends…personal friends…here on FB, via email and calls. It’s been beautiful, kind, and generous.

As I said the other day, seventeen years is an almost unheard of tenure in United Methodist circles. And I have been aware of that fact for many years now. I’ve been aware of just how graced I and Northaven have been to share that tenure together.

But I have been thinking about one of the “Balcony People” in my life: Rev. Will Bailey.

Many older Dallas United Methodists will know and fondly remember Will. Along with Bill McElvaney, he was one of the progressive icons of his day. He was in his last years of ministry when I first came into ministry.

Will stayed at Casa View UMC for 42 years. I only know of one tenure longer than this. (Ken Dickson, I believe…by just a few years…there may be others…)

Unfortunately, once Will left Casa View, the church really struggled to find a new direction and vision. It was not for want of very talented clergy who followed him, or committed lay leadership. But in many ways, it was an almost impossible task. And Casa View UMC, as a congregation, is no more.

As I told some folks on FB this week, I’ve been thinking alot about Will for about three years now, in the quiet of my own personal prayers and reflections. I would never have wanted for Northaven what happened to Casa View after Will.

(However! As Cynthia Astle reminded me this week, all the old Casa View folks have scattered to many churches in the area….almost like Newton’s law….now spiritual energy is ever really lost either!)

So, there was never going to be a great time to leave Northaven, that was clear to me. But, as the years passed, there would one-day no doubt become a *bad* time to leave…meaning a time where the change came too late. I don’t think we’re at that place now. It’s as good a time as any….as I said to my District Superintendent earlier this year, it should probably happen “sooner rather than later.”

So, sooner is now. And that will be good in the long run, especially for Northaven.

The bottom line, as I said the other day, perhaps it is time for a fresh set of eyes to lead this beautiful church. And so, for any of you who still feel a sense of confusion and perhaps even anger that this happening now, I simply ask you to mediate on that last sentence. It would *not* have been good for me to stay forever, like Will, so perhaps now will be the very good time. Let’s all keep that belief prayerfully in our mind. I believe it is so.

And remember the powerful imagery of Myrrh. It’s spiritual symbolism reminds us of both Jesus’ birth and death. And reminds us that both are always intertwined, for those who have eyes to see.

There’s a line in the funeral liturgy that says, “In the midst of life, we are in death.”

Which is another way of saying: “Things are always changing. Nothing stays the same.”

Life is a constant movement of death…to life…to death…to life…

Life has that cyclical nature, rooted in the spiritual truth that all things are always changing.

The heaviness you may feel today will soon be replaced with excitement about new possibilities and joy for Northaven and its new pastor…who I have every faith will be a blessing to the Church, and to each of you individually.

I am deeply committed to seeing that transition go smoothly and gracefully, and will do everything in my power to insure that it does. I invite you all to that attitude as well.

Myrrh smells sweet, not bittersweet. That’s a message to us today too.

Our faith teaches that joy, sorrow, birth, death, beginning and endings are somehow all connected in a continuum of life.

Thanks be to God for it all.

Hope to see you all Sunday, as we begin our transitional time together.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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