I have come to my final time to write you an article for the newsletter as your pastor. As I approach this season in my life, I have spent a lot of time reflecting over the past six years.
The biblical image that comes to mind is the handing off of the mantle from Elijah to Elisha in 2 Kings 2. This is not a perfect image. I don’t plan to be riding off in a chariot of fire or even off into the sunset. Also, your incoming pastor has not been walking along beside me in my ministry here and I haven’t been mentoring her as in the case with Elijah and Elisha. However, there is something about handing over the mantle. Both of the prophets’ ministry played out differently. Elijah’s ministry brought word of the Lord’s judgment upon Israel’s wicked kings while Elisha’s ministry was primarily that of a supportive adviser to well-intended kings. However, there were some similarities: both were healers and performed miracles. When a newly called leader comes into our lives, we need to recognize that no two leaders or their ministries are the same. Yet there is one thing in common: each leader is expected to bring all that they are and have to the altar of God and offer it for the benefit and blessing of those whom they preside. I have done that with the empowering of the Holy Spirit and with the best of my ability and your new pastor will do the same. When you sustain a new leader, it is your privilege to pray and come to know by revelation that those who have been called to lead have indeed received the authority from God.
As I make this transition in my life from working full-time as a pastor to the unknown, another biblical image comes to mind. It is the message given to Joshua from God after the death of Moses. God promises to be with Joshua just as he had with Moses. In Joshua 1:9, God’s promise is this: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” I have to trust these words, just as Joshua did and God remained faithful to him and many others who have lived the faith and God’s promise has been fulfilled over and over.
I must confess that I worry about what tomorrow will bring and this pandemic has reminded me what little control we have with our lives. Scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 6:25-33 as follows: “25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[a] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[b] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[c] and his[d] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
I know throughout life I have spent a lot of time worrying about things instead of placing my trust in God. Life is a continuous learning to trust God and now more than ever, but I remain mindful of God’s promises.
As I seek to find what God has for me to do in my days to come, I rest assured that God is not finished with me yet. We all are called to live out the Great Commission in our lives in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The way I do that may look different, but I will continue to fulfill the commission in the ways God provides in the coming days.
Last of all, I want to remind you to continue to be the Body of Christ, serving the Alvord area. I hope, if anything you have learned through the pandemic is that the church is not a building, the church is the people. Even though we are not physically together, we are unified through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and empowered through the Holy Spirit to be the hands and feet of Christ. It shows how you have continued to be the church, in spite of the present situation: Meals on Wheels still continues each week, a Vacation Bible School Grab and Go is being planned, Alvord Cares will provide food for kids this summer, and your gifts and offerings reflect your commitment to the ministry of the church. Thank you for who you are as you continue to live out the vision and mission of the church.
How blessed I have been to grow in relationship with each of you, serve as your pastor for the past six years, and thank you for how you have pastored me during my illness. Love you all.