Lately my daughter has taken to repeatedly hugging and kissing us to say, “goodbye.: She doesn’t just do it one time, she does it multiple times. We will think that we have done our farewell and she will say once more, “Another hug and a kiss.”
It can be hard to say, “Goodbye.” This is true as I transition away from being your pastor and taking on a new position. There are lots of things that have been happening in this process: cleaning out my office, last meetings, last worship services, last funerals and weddings and baptisms! None of it has been easy.
How do we bid one another farewell? Paul has some farewell words for the church in Philippi and they say this:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, NIV)
My daughter’s kisses and hugs repeatedly because she’s not happy to have us leave. So, Paul’s words to rejoice seem out of place.
Yet on leaving Goodrich UMC as the pastor, these words ring true to me. Rejoice! Rejoice in all we’ve done together. Rejoice because God is still with us.
Don’t be anxious. A new minister might bring anxiety, but don’t worry, God is with you!
Focus on what is good. We have a tendency to focus on what is bad, but Paul reminds us to focus on the good.
“And the God of peace will be with you.” This is the only way to end. All of it, all of the six years we’ve been together, all of the ups and downs, the pandemic and the denominational strife, the baptisms, weddings and funerals, we’ve gone through all of it because the God of peace goes with us. The things we’ve done together that we rejoice in happened because the God of peace goes with us.
This is where our paths part – but we still have this in common: the God of peace will be with [us].
Thanks be to God! Thank you for letting me be your pastor for the last six years. The grace of Jesus Christ be with you!