A Pilgrim Pastor

28 04 2017

I only met him a few years ago.  He was the first person I contacted when I moved into town; selfishly, because I wanted to pick his brain and learn about all that was going on in his church.  I had read an article he had written for some denominational publication, and gracious doesn’t do justice to the way he received my call.  He didn’t know me from Adam, but never the less invited me out for a tour of his church’s facility.  The day I visited we spent a couple hours together; and over steaming bowls of Pho we talked about ministry and all that was going on in the Presbyterian portion of Christ’s body in our nation’s capital.

Jeff Krehbiel was one of those people you aspired to be like!  He was only a year older than me, thus making it odd in the eyes of some to consider him a mentor.  But Jeff’s life, ministry, and personality were so quietly inspiring and contagious, that admiration couldn’t help but bubble up within you when you were with him.

I certainly didn’t know him as well as many who may read this; but the mere fact that he’s been popping into my head every day since I heard of his diagnosis, and that I now find myself bearing a heaviness of heart over his passing,  evidences the kind of Christ-follower that Jeff was.  I only met his wife Cheryl once, and didn’t know the rest of his family; so I cannot comment the personal side of Jeff’s life.  I say that because I don’t want anyone to think that a man’s life is solely defined by his ministry.  But I have only known Jeff in his capacity as a pastor and colleague, and so I will not presume to be able to write about anything else.

Jeff loved ministry; and that is rare today.  The Church is full of pastors who have become cynical and resentful, with hearts that can’t seem to wait for retirement.  But my encounters with Jeff revealed a man who loved what he did; and that was inspiring to see.  Whether preaching or ringing his singing bowl, reading Scripture or providing pastoral care, leading committee meetings or rethinking what a faith community is to be about, Jeff’s enthusiasm for what he did gave me  glimpses of a Jesus who was alive and active in his risen Body, the Church.

Jeff also loved and appreciated the world – the creative work of the holy hand of God.  He loved creation, and he loved all who inhabited creation.  Whether seeking to maintain and simply enjoy . . . ‘the beauty of the earth’, or courageously pursuing the justice of God’ in . . . ‘the living of these days’, Jeff bore witness to ‘kin’dom living.  His life was a testimony to the work and movement of the Spirit — a Spirit far less like demure dove, and much more like a gregarious goose.  And witnessing his way of being in the world motivated me to do what I do with renewed energy and vigor.

But the thing I think I appreciated most about Jeff was his commitment to the ‘renewing of his mind!’  His faith was all about the transformation that is at the heart of the Gospel, and he showed me what it means to actually live out the motto . . . life is not about the destination, but the journey.  What I witnessed in Jeff Krehbiel was man who embraced the continuing education of his mind, and who sought out adventures and experiences, and people and places, that would lead him into those ‘thin spaces’ where his walk with God might be deepened.

As my own journey continues to grow and develop I become more and more certain of what heaven is NOT, and less and less certain of what I think it is!  Never the less, in spite of that mystery, I DO believe it has something to do with an ongoing and eternal presence of all that is right and good and kind and faithful.  And because there was so much in Jeff that was indeed . . . right and good and kind and faithful . . . I am confident that he can and does live on: in me, and in many who knew and loved him.    So well done good and faithful servant!  And thanks for the many ways you pastored this pastor!



One response

28 04 2017
Juli Wilson-Black

Amen, Bob. Thank you for articulating exactly how I felt about Jeff. Knowing him was such a gift.

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