What Has Been
Sunday evening, May 31, 2015, at the Congregational Meeting:
Kara and her family have been here for 30 years, I have been a part of the church for almost 20. We have been repeatedly blessed and encouraged by our time here. We have grown and been challenged in so many ways. With you we have shared common meals, classes, time serving alongside you. We have enjoyed coffees, beers and bottles of wine with you. We have cooked out, dined out, swung golf clubs, shot clay targets, led growth groups and bible studies, served in ministry areas, held babies, retreated and mission-tripped, licked envelopes, painted walls, done dishes, dug ditches, plunged toilets and grilled innumerable burgers and dogs. It has been sweet to be with you.
I have been to emergency rooms and hospital bedsides, ICUs and birthing units, tended flesh wounds and broken bones. I have officiated marriages, led funerals for young and old, administered the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I have wept with you, laughed with you (and sometimes at you). I have prayed with many of you about church vision, finances, shepherding and care, against disease and for the faith of the ones we love. I have sough to serve this community well, in as much as my experience and wisdom permitted, and by God’s grace you have been kind to receive it.
All the while, there are countless to-do items in my phone that will likely never be addressed. There are conversations and notes and emails that I wish I had written, that I fully intended to write and send, but that I have not. I have failed many of you in following through, or praying faithfully. Some of you I have sinned against and you have kindly offered your forgiveness. In spite of the shortcomings, God has tenderly used us in his call to kingdom work, he has been gracious. I am grateful for your mercy and grace, thank you for your charitable response to me and my family in all these things.
Kara and I, more than anything wanted to say thank you. You have been generous to us, you have prayed for us, encouraged us, forgiven us. You have watched our family grow, you have been in our home and we in yours, we have prayed for each other’s myriad needs, we encouraged each other to keep the faith, reminded each other of the promises of the gospel. We are grateful for you.
We thank you for your care for our kids. You have invested in our kids as teachers and coaches, mentors and guides. You have treated the kids like any other children in the church, for which I am grateful. Allowing them to be kids and to say and do “kid things,” not just “pastor’s kid things.” They have learned that the church is a loving gospel-community and a loving-gospel community, because of you. You have offered babysitting, teaching, care, ministry and friendship. You have provided a place for the gospel to grow in them.
I will not name anyone for the sake of missing someone who has blessed me (us), who has sacrificed for us or with us, who has made the effort to encourage us, who has served alongside us. Over the years, pastors, elders, deacons, staff, lay leaders, youth and children have brought us life and joy. There are too many stories, too many places and people, too much history to try to account for. You are friends, partners, loved ones.
In short, your faithfulness to the Lord has strengthened us. We are thankful to God that he has put you into our lives, thankful for the work he has done. I can’t imagine saying anything else, nor is anything really appropriate after so many years: Thank you for showing us the gospel.
I humbly ask that you would show it to the next pastor and his family. Welcome him, get to know him and his family. Pray for them, pray for his heart and character, pray that you would be open to listen and hear his heart for Christ, and to partner with him him ministry as you have for me and Chris, the session, deacons and staff.