June 19, 2022, Saying Goodbye, Saying Hello, by Pastor David
Genesis 31: 44-46, 48-49, 50b Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.” 45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 And Jacob said to his kinsfolk, “Gather stones,” and they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore he called it Galeed 49 and the pillar Mizpah, for he said, “The Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other. 50 ….though no one else is with us, remember that God is witness between you and me.”
Philippians 4: 4-9, 23 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 As for the things that you have learned and received and heard and noticed in me, do them, and the God of peace will be with you. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Meditation - butterflies in the Smokies, reflecting on farewell and the opportunity given to us for new beginnings and new greetings
June 19, 2022 Saying Goodbye, Saying Hello
I’ve learned a few things about saying goodbye over almost 70 years, having experienced plenty enough farewells. Some goodbyes are easy. We used to have interns from Switzerland at my old church in West Philadelphia. They were wonderful young people who helped out with everything around that big beautiful church. Every other year they would leave and new people would come.
Folks in the congregation told me that after a couple of times getting close with the interns and having to say goodbye after two years of a deep relationship, they stopped wanting to get as close. They stopped investing in the relationship because it was too painful saying goodbye. The interns didn’t know totally what they were missing. I understood why folks, whose lives were full and sometimes full of pain and loss, decided not to risk any more pain or loss. So the goodbye got easier, but in the meantime folks were missing out on the learning and the friendship.
The hardest goodbyes are with people and situations where we have invested the most. Whether the relationship has been long or short, it is difficult to say goodbye to what will no longer be, to what we had anticipated our future would be that is no longer in the cards. I have cried wishing for a little more, wishing that what I had dreamed for the future would still happen, wishing I could experience again the beauty of a moment that has past, wishing , wishing, wishing.
Sometimes we have to let go of the wishing and realize we have not lost anything we ever had. We still have all the memories. We still have the relationship that we had, just not the experiences we thought were maybe still to come. Then we really say goodbye and open ourselves to new experiences and opportunities for closeness and relationship. Maybe not the same ones we were hoping for or thought were going to happen, but we make room for new hopes and connections.
There’s a United Methodist guideline that after a pastor leaves a church they have served - especially for a long pastorate like this one, he or she stays away from the church for a year. We pastors are asked to help the new pastor coming in by giving them room to fully become the pastor, making room for them to develop their own relationships and experiences with people from the congregation.
You all know that we have formed our deepest relationships through weddings, funerals, baptisms - joyous and difficult experiences we have had together. We built a foundation that allowed for some really good things to happen. The church is asking me to allow another pastor to develop that foundation with you. They are asking me to allow a new person to develop the deep relationships with you that I have been blessed to have for these last 26 years.
It takes time to develop those relationships. It doesn’t happen automatically or quickly. When I first came here there were some people second guessing this appointment, thinking it would not work and would not last. Well, we showed them didn’t we? It’s been a good run.
I will always be grateful for the ministry we have shared during these years, for all the things we have done together that we have recalled over the last couple of months. I thank you for all the love you have shown to me during this time. I am taking it in today.
It is time to say farewell - to make room for a new pastor. Pastor Mark Salvacion is a good fit for this good place. You have been making room for him already - fixing up the parish house and providing him a wonderful place to live. That will be a big change right there - to have your pastor living right in the neighborhood and connecting with other community leaders here.
On this second annual Juneteenth holiday weekend, I am glad to be making room for the first pastor of color in the 145 year history of St. Luke Church. In some ways we have been preparing for this new phase of ministry at St. Luke for a long time. I am so pleased to leave you in capable hands with a remarkable person.
Pastor Mark and his wife, Fran, are musicians and they are excited about the ministry in this place. Fran has a new position at Bryn Mawr College that she begins in July, so they are ready for this new adventure. Pastor Mark is a lawyer, committed to immigration issues and to welcoming all people.
It’s not easy for us to open ourselves to change. And this is a big change. For me and for you. The Spirit is doing something new in our midst. To take advantage of the new opportunities that are in front of us, we have to say farewell and let it sink in and really let go.
We have some new adventures ahead of us - taking different paths than the one we’ve been on together for many years now. I know we will both hit some gravel on the path ahead on our different roads. When I mentioned that to Terri yesterday, she immediately said, “Yeah, and we’ll find grace in the gravel.” We thought that would make a good country song - or a title for a sermon. “Grace in the gravel”
Grace in the gravel is just one of the new possibilities presenting themselves to us when we head off on our separate adventures. There will be many openings and new relationships and joy. I am grateful and amazed really at what we’ve been able to do together and I’m excited to see where we go next. Take lots of pictures and put on them on Facebook. I’ll be watching. I will be praying for you and I ask you to pray for me, even if we don’t talk with each other as often.
The Lord watch between you and me, while we are absent one from the other.
And as Paul said, “the God of peace will be with you. The grace of Christ be with your spirit.” This is God’s good news.
Responsive Song 2281 May You Run and Not Be Weary