For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
There is a time to say hello and a time to say good-bye. Even though I knew when I came here that we would not be together for a long time, I still have mixed emotions on this, my last Sunday with you. When I first came as your Intentional Interim Minister, I thought that at the end of 2 ½ years, I would hand the congregations back, tied up with a pretty bow and be able to proclaim them all fixed!
We all know that that is not the case… the fixing… or the forming of being the best God’s people can be is not up to me… or even to us… there is that God thing… that Jesus thing… that Spirit thing… that enables us to become more than what we were or dreamed.
The two congregations hold many memories:
• Listening Circles where we discerned what God wanted us to focus on in the coming years.
• Worship and workshops…
• Study groups and meetings…
• Candlelit Christmases and baptisms.
• Funerals and vigils.
• Baptisms and joy.
• Strangers who became friends…. Food shared… laughter and tears…
I have learned something from each and every one of you… and I will never forget you.
I name these things today to tell you I have seen the presence of our God at work in each of you here today and in the activities shared in God’s name during my time as your minister. God’s plan has been unfolding in your lives and mine every time we have come together in God’s name. God’s work continues today and tomorrow and into the future as long as people gather in God’s name to participate in God’s work in our world.
Each year, we have received ‘Star Words. The first year, I think at my first service, the word that I received was ‘daring.’ It was a good word for the start of an Interim Ministry.
I know that on more than one occasion, as I contemplated proposing something that was outside the usual way of doing things, I looked at that word and said to myself, “This is exactly why you have been appointed here, part of your role is to challenge some norms.” With the support of a great Transition Team, a wise mentor and supportive colleagues, both congregations, in very different ways, have demonstrated their capacity to engage and change.
My star word for 2017 was understanding. Our capacity to be understanding and compassionate with each other was stretched a few times over that year, as we attempted to live into the core values that had been expressed.
My star word for 2018 was prayer… I prayed a LOT! I prayed in private, I prayed in public, I prayed in meetings, I prayed in worship. I prayed that you would know how much I cared about you, even as I challenged and dismayed some of you. I prayed that we would be held together by something so much bigger than ourselves… God.
And this year, I received the word ‘believe.’ I believe you have learned some things that you will not forget. And I believe you are ready for the next stage of life. I believe you are ready to welcome your new minister.
My daring, my understanding, my prayer and my belief have all been firmly rooted in my understanding of Jesus’ ministry, where he dared much, accomplished much and suffered much. The scripture passage I keep close to me is from Matthew 14, where Jesus walks on water, the disciples are afraid and Jesus reassures them with these words, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Let’s listen to that full passage:
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake.
But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
“Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.” Those are powerful words that we can count on.
Our faith story is one of change and transformation, from Abraham and Sarah who left their home and place and traveled in the wilderness, to the prophets who called God’s people to accountability, to the founder of our faith, Jesus. Jesus’ own life was marked by change and transformation. The life of both our churches is no different, it follows the same pattern. Your history has been marked by change and transformation. Just as individuals and families grow, change and are reformatted in new ways, so are faith communities. In transformation we let go of some things that no longer serve us and are opened to new things which we may not have imagined. Take heart, it is Jesus, do not be afraid.
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following Jesus with you. Amen.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
Matthew 14: 22-27
June 23, 2019 – ECM