I was reading poetry the other night (yes I actually read poetry in the evening some times!) and I ran across this very familiar piece from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Perhaps you remember it from your days in school –
I shot an Arrow into the air
It fell to earth I know not where,
For so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breath’d a Song into the air
It fell to earth I know not where.
For who has sight so keen and strong
That it can follow the flight of a song?
Long, long afterward in an oak
I found the Arrow still unbroke;
And the Song from beginning to end
I found again in the heart of a friend.
Late in the evening I started reflecting on the friends that have passed through my life – those with whom I have shared a song. I remembered back to the rag-tag gang of boys who ran around my neighborhood when I was growing up in Neenah. I smiled at my memories of baseball games and tag, bike riding and swimming – all the treasures of childhood. I thought of the young men who walked with me through my college days and the men and women who shared my experiences in graduate school. I thought of the friends I had in priesthood, Frs. Dan and Leo and all the parishioners who celebrated with me every Sunday. I thought of my brothers, Mike and Bill and my sisters Lori and Becky and the good friends that they have become as adults. And of course I thought of Melissa, my wife and companion – my true heart-friend. I went to sleep that night grateful for my fifty years of life and fifty years of song and fifty years of friends.
And the Song from beginning to end – I found again in the heart of a friend. Longfellow was correct, in the heart of every true friend we find our true song, a song that lifts us up and gives us meaning. Jesus knew this as well. He often spoke of friendship as being at the core of discipleship. He would say: Behold I do not call you servants any longer – instead I call you friends…You are my friends if you do what I command you…there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend and you are my friends. Jesus was always trying to proclaim that his true friends carry within themselves the song of God. It’s all about loving as friends.
Why do I write of friendship this month? As I mentioned, this year I turn fifty years old! Melissa asked me months ago how I wanted to celebrate this milestone. I thought it over and decided that I wanted to share an evening with you – my parishioners with whom I have shared so very many songs. I want an evening with you, my Messiah Church friends. With that in mind, Melissa and I reserved the second floor of the Brocach Irish Pub on Capitol Square (7 W. Main St.) on THURSDAY, JULY 23RD from 6:30 PM until 10:00 PM. It is the night before my 50th. What I would like is to simply share a story or a hug, a laugh or a drink with you, my friends. Melissa and I will provide the cake and some light “finger food,” and the bars upstairs and down will be available for you to buy your drinks. Our thought is that families could stop by after dinner to spend a little time as parish friends, have a soda or a beer, enjoy a little Irish music and if it is a nice summer evening, to hang out around our beautiful Capitol (or even walk over to enjoy a little free live music on the rooftop of Monona Terrace by Roots Collective, a reggae band 7-8:45 PM). My only request would be that you NOT gift me with cards or money or any other gift other than your presence. If you are feeling a need to gift me, give a donation to a charity of your choice – what I would like is to celebrate a night of friendship and an evening of common song. If you are in town on July 23rd, please do wander downtown and visit with Melissa and me. Our three children will be with us and the Brocach is handicapped accessible with an elevator to the second floor, so please bring your children/grandchildren as well and stay as long or as little as you choose.
I am grateful to be your pastor. I am grateful for this new journey of building and growing. I am grateful to call you my friends.