There are so many things I experienced in my time as your minister.
Many deeply emotional times.
Many celebrations of life for loved ones and friends.
Many newborn babies welcomed into the Christian family.
Many couples speaking their promises in our presence.
Many prayers seeking strength, courage, healing.
Many prayer shawls sending love to those in need.
Many meals, conversations, sharing our lives, needs and challenges.
Many transitions and changes.
Many worship services and hymns of praise.
In the midst of all of this is a generous love you gave me and my deep love and commitment towards each of you.
Last Sunday was a goodbye service at both SouthWest, honouring 20 years of ministry, and later that afternoon at St. Andrew’s, Delson, where I served 15 years as supervising minister. A lot of goodbyes, cards, words, hymns and profound joy.
The scripture I have carried these last few weeks are words that Paul wrote from prison to the Christian Community at Phillippi in Macedonia. (Philippians 1: 3-11, The Message). They speak of my feelings for you.
Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
The service last Sunday ended with the lighting of the Christ Candle, and used these words that grew out of our experience of loss and faith over many years.
In darkness, there is light.
In sadness, there is hope.
And even at death there is light, love, and life everlasting
Dans les ténèbres, il y a de la lumière.
Dans la tristesse, il y a de l’espoir.
Dans la mort, il y a de la lumière, de l’amour, et la vie éternelle.
To these oft cited words and to those of Paul I say, we say:
Thanks be to God.