Dear brothers and sisters in the faith,
First and foremost, I give God thanks for you. I give God thanks for your faithfulness, your love, your welcoming spirit, and your generosity of heart.
While our time together seems like only a brief moment in time, it has been worthwhile time spent doing kingdom work, and for that I give thanks as well.
You are a healthy church full of faithful disciples seeking to understand and follow the will of God in your lives. And that truth makes you a healing church as well. You have been a place of physical, emotional, relational and spiritual healing for many in our midst. You have been a place of refuge for those who have been wounded by other churches and other Christians. You have been a light and a reminder that Christians are good, that we seek to be loving, gracious, and welcoming. And though sometimes we have stumbled in those ways, sometimes we have been challenged by the quirks and habits of one another, and sometimes challenged by the circumstances and choices of the stranger, you keep trying. You always go back to a place of faithfulness and ask what God is asking us to do.
You are a curious people, full of questions and commentary! It’s a beautiful thing. The Bible is meant to be our light and our life source and to be that in our lives, it has to be explored, known and understood. Questions make that possible. So study the scriptures and ask your questions. Challenge the tough passages. Don’t dismiss them as irrelevant or outdated, but look to understand their original and deeper meaning so that you might hear God’s truth for your own life. Fall in love with the Word of God. It is the best story book out there. There is history, intrigue, war stories, stories about the underdog, stories of heroes and heroines, poetry, stories as curious and odd as a sci fi novel, and even a bit of romance. And all of those stories come together to tell the story of God in our history and in our midst.
Some of you worry about asking your questions. You’re afraid to reveal your doubts. You think that doubts mean you lack faith. Please don’t be anxious. Doubts don’t equate to a lack of faith. Doubts deal with understanding, sometimes heart understanding, but mostly with head knowledge. By probing around and asking questions, you will dig deeper and create a stronger foundation for connection with God and with others. You will be better equipped to deal with the hard questions, the challenging scriptures, and life’s situations that cause your world to crumble. You may still hesitate about asking your questions, you’re worried something might crack, something might shatter. You are right, but not in a bad way, asking questions and digging deeper will break the Bible and your faith wide open. It will be bigger and it will be better. I have that confidence because I’ve doubted. I’ve asked questions. I’ve dug around and broken things apart. And while some of that felt scary, in the end it made me stronger. It made me more confident in my faith because I knew what I believed and I knew why I believed it.
So keep asking questions and being in conversation with one another. You do not all believe alike. You are not at the same place in your journey. You are not the same politically or theologically and some people find that as a reason to fight in the church. Instead, you have found it as a place to nurture one another, learn from each other, and grow in your own beliefs. Keep it up! Utilize each other’s experiences, faith, and understandings of the Bible and of God to grow and be grown.
It has been my gift and my privilege to be your pastor. You have welcomed me into some of the most holy, sacred, and vulnerable places of your lives. You have confessed, you have grieved, and you have revealed yourselves to me; and I do not take that lightly. What you have shared I hold in confidence; it was holy sharing. I am grateful for time spent sharing over meals, in coffee shops, in my office, in the sanctuary, and in the parking lot.
God has been revealed to us over and over again. We have prayed and learned to pray together. We have prayed for and seen God’s healing work in our lives. We have witnessed miracles in our midst, some that were instantaneous and others that took place over time. We have battled our demons together. We have fought our pride, our anger, our self-doubt, depression, fear, anxiety. We have rebuked them in the name of Jesus and prayed for joy, peace, and hope to infiltrate our hearts.
I hate to acknowledge that this is our last day together. I hesitate to say goodbye, mostly because it forces me to acknowledge the reality that I will not be with you week after week. Friends you have shared your lives with me and blessed me in the growth and formation of my own life and family. I will miss sharing with you. I lament the moments we will not spend together. My heart breaks because I will not be here to comfort you or care for you when your loved ones pass. I won’t be here to help you say goodbye to those you love or to walk with you as you learn to journey without them. I won’t be here to celebrate new babies and new relationships and new adventures. And yet, the message that has been my truth since the beginning of my time in ministry 14 years ago, continues to be true and real. Ministry is not about me. It’s about God. And in my times of doubt and struggle, I have been reminded that it’s not about me. It’s not about my ignorance or my lack of experience. It’s not about my naivete or my quirks. It’s about God. And as long as I allow God to work through me, then God’s work will be done. And the true is same today. As I stand here proud of what we have done together, the projects that have been completed and the lives that have been affected, I am reminded, it’s still not about me. It’s about God and what God has done through us and in us as the community of faith.
And while I will definitely miss sharing those moments with you and seeing your smiles and soaking in the love in your hugs, your growth as disciples, and the love you share isn’t about me. It’s about God. What we have done we have done for God. Where we have struggled, we have done so to grow in God. Where we have been challenged, it is by God’s truth. And whether it’s me, or anyone else here as your pastor, it should always be about God.
Pastor David is preparing, even now, to come and be your pastor. He has prayed for you. He has imagined your life in ministry together. He is excited to be a servant of God working in your midst. I thank God for David, for his talents, for his calling, for the richness of his experiences, for the things he knows that I do not, and I pray for him as your leader and you as his congregation. He is a trusted servant and I pray that you are a tremendous blessing to one another. I pray that you listen for God’s leading and move into the future God has called you to together.
Beloved community of God, I pray that God pours out a tremendous anointing of the Spirit upon you and that you are a light and witness in this community about the grace, love, and welcome of our God. I pray you continue to witness, in word and in deed, about the marvelous and redeeming work of our Lord. I pray your eyes stay fixed on God that you may strengthened and grow to do things beyond your imagination, all for the sake of the kingdom.