BY MATTHEW SCRAPER, PASTOR, OKC-SOUTHERN HILLS UMC
An open letter to my father, Randy Scraper, on the Sunday of his retirement:
There is only one window in my office. I find myself looking toward that window often from my corner desk, probably because it is nice to see the sunlight streak between the blinds. The sunlight has always reminded me of the ever-present warmth of God’s love.
The rays of light that sneak through are partially obscured by a hanging bar that supports the many robes I have collected throughout my time in ministry.
I wear them, or one of them, every Sunday morning as I step into the pulpit in a role that has been fulfilled by many before me throughout the Methodist connection. I reflect on those others, conscious that each of us who is ordained represents only one link in a chain forged long before us and extending long after we are gone.
Today I am immediately conscious of one robe worn Sunday after Sunday, of one link in the chain that has forever influenced the man I have become.
My father had this gray robe with black velvet doctoral panels and bars. So often did my father wear this robe that I remember being surprised the first time I saw a minister wearing a robe of another color.
Up to that point in my life, I thought all ministers wore gray robes.
Week after week my father preached, and taught, and laughed, and made us cry as he told stories that connected my head to my heart and my heart to my spirit, stories that spoke of the great love of God.
Week after week, I listened to my father, in his gray robe, teaching about the freedom we have in Christ to accept that love, be transformed and renewed by it, then step into the abundance that comes from participating in what God is doing to redeem brokenness in the world.
Week after week, year after year, and decade after decade I have watched my father, sunlight gracing the folds of that gray robe, as he cared enough to teach the world what it means to know God.
Today, the sunlight slips through the breaks of the blinds in my office, and it graces the folds of that gray robe. I cannot look at that robe without tears forming around the edges of my eyes.
I wonder how many sermons that gray robe has heard. How many lives have been changed, re-forged, and redeemed while listening to the man who wore it?
Someday soon, I will slip into that robe myself. I will walk into the congregation at my church and deliver one more in the long line of sermons the gray robe has heard. However, for the first time in my life, my father will not be in a pulpit of his own in that same moment.
My father once told me that people will never remember what you said when you preach, but they will remember how hearing God in that moment made them feel.
While I cannot remember every point from any one sermon, I can affirm with all my heart that feeling the love of God from the man in the gray robe has changed my life forever, because the man in the gray robe cared enough about me to introduce me to the God of heaven and earth.
Your link has been forged well; your legacy passed on. We will take it from here.
(Facebook post, March 26, 2017)