Last Words

“I won’t get down. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist–” (Gen John Sedgwick)

“I’ll show you, it won’t shoot.” (Johnny Ace, before losing at Russian roulette)

“You’re right, it’s time. I love you all.” (Michael Landon)

Some people, such as the above, have some very famous (if occasionally ironic or even amusing) last words. This is something I was thinking about after attending the always outstanding Dave Alvin concert Tuesday night at the Birchmere; I absolutely love his shows and this happened to be the tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of his iconic album, King of California. The title cut is the story of a young man who leaves his love “east of the Ohio River” to head west and make his fortune, promising to “return to claim your hand as the King of California.” Unfortunately the song ends poignantly with the young man dying of a gunshot wound after killing another man in a fight; his last words are recalling his promise, left unfulfilled on this side of life.

It’s said that people on their deathbeds sometimes catch a glimpse of what’s to come; some report seeing angels up by the ceiling over their bed, for instance. Steve Jobs’ last words were, “Wow. Wow. Wow.” I can only imagine what he saw that impressed him so much. I can’t remember my dad’s last words to me; my mom’s were, “I’m tired.”

Not that I have any plans to need any last words anytime soon, but just as an amusing thought experiment, what last words would one have on coming into the Kingdom in its fullest? Some thoughts (add your own in the Comments):

  • “Huh, it’s bigger on the inside” (Nice Doctor Who reference)
  • “They’re all wearing Astros jerseys.” (Said of those ceiling angels; because heaven will be a home game for my beloved Houston Astros)
  • “What are you doing here?” (And let them wonder whom I’m seeing…)
  • From John 20:28: “My Lord and my God!”
  • “I get it now.”
  • Or just go with the classic: “Jesus.”

What do you think?

“Who, Me?” My Debut Sermon As Pastor

This weekend marked my debut weekend leading worship at Sydenstricker UMC as its newest Associate Pastor. I was thrilled and honored to share the story of how it is I come to be in the ranks of the clergy now, and what Jesus meant in the Great Commission, with everyone at SUMC. Click here to give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Consecration and Celebration

There have been so many “firsts” and “official” moments in the last several weeks, I almost lose track. I became officially a member of the clergy of the United Methodist Church on June 20, when I was approved at the clergy session of Annual Conference. I became the “Rev. Eric Kleppinger” when I was licensed on the 21st, and then on the 22nd, when appointments were fixed, I officially became part of the clergy team at Sydenstricker UMC. I’ve had to post a bio and photo and everything, so it’s really real!

Then came this Sunday, June 30. At the 11:00 service, we had a special consecration service. First Mary was consecrated as a new Stephen Minister, to bring her gifts of caring into the lives of those in need of a little extra help. Then it was my turn.

At Sydenstricker, we haven’t had a tradition of “robing up” in full liturgical vestments, except on major holidays. But for this one, I was presented for consecration in my new robes, and our Senior Pastor, Don, was in his, along with my stepbrother, Joel, a Baptist pastor who came down from Vermont to be a part of the day.

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Don Jamison reads me the charge to care for the people of Sydenstricker
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Don and Joel lay hands on me and pray God’s blessings

All told, I think I can count about 19 people who were there just for me that day: friends, family, you name it, people who were part of my life w-a-a-a-y back in college or even before, and newer friends who have walked alongside me in these more recent journeys. My stepbrother Joel and his wife Aprile from Vermont, my uncle and aunt from Pennsylvania, a dear family friend from when I was in elementary school came from New Jersey… so many loving people. And there were Sydenstricker folk, of course, by the dozens, people who had been there for decades, and people whose lives are just now coming into our circle. I am beyond-words grateful for each person who came, whether from Vermont or Pennsylvania or Springfield. I can see each of their faces in my mind’s eye as I stand at the rail and look out. And it is a beautiful sight, one I will always cherish.

I have absolutely no idea what lies ahead of me…but God does, and he’s called me into something much mightier than I could ever have imagined. It’s exciting, it’s terrifying, it’s humbling, and it’s now a part of who I am.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them all I have given you; and I will be with you, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

#letsgo.

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Joel, me, and Don after the service