As I write my devotion this week, my heart is full. I am both exhilarated and exhausted. I have experienced amazing love, but also have real questions about the future. Sunday morning, August 25 was my last Sunday as full-time senior pastor at St. John. Then, Sunday evening, St. John held a retirement celebration which I experienced to be both a festival of love and an adventure of faith. I am still basking in the glow of that day, but also recovering from the emotional aspect of the event.
If you worshiped at St. John last Sunday morning, you know that, based on Luke 13:30, I spoke about “Living by God’s Grace Alone.” There were emotions shown in worship that morning, and I was not the only one with tears in my eyes. Sunday afternoon’s retirement worship service and presentations celebrated the love of God in our midst, and celebrated our Lord’s love shown among His people at St. John. To be the center, in many ways, of such a celebration is humbling, but amazingly heart-warming.
Since I am retiring, it is natural that some of the attention of the day focused on me. However, and that is a BIG ‘however’, there is a danger when any one person is celebrated. I shared this danger both Sunday morning and Sunday evening. This assertion may surprise you, but please listen to the words of God through St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church. Paul wrote to this church about his work as a leader to Christ’s people. “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5) Paul did not preach himself, he preached Jesus! Jesus Christ is our Creator God. Jesus is the Son of God who gave His life for the sin of the world. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” HE is the Savior of the world. Jesus, our risen Savior is ruler of all, sitting at the right hand of God, and is Lord of the Universe. Thankfully, God uses people to do His work. But, the one who deserves our heart-felt worship is first and foremost, our Lord Jesus! This was even true last Sunday.
Nevertheless, my response to the events of last Sunday can be best described in Paul’s words in Philippians 1. “3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
First of all, what a JOY to gather last Sunday with my family, with my Christian family – the church, and with so many friends. THANK YOU for celebrating on Sunday the ministry of Jesus that has happened between us at St. John! My heart is full!
In addition, I honestly believe that the greatest adventure of this life is doing the work of spreading God’s kingdom, the work of sharing our Lord’s love. A Christian life of service to our Lord is a journey full of many challenges and difficulties. Therefore, I rejoice and I thank you for what Paul called the “partnership in the gospel” which I have shared with God’s people! What a joy to work together with other believers along this journey in this most important calling of this world, the work of sharing the way to eternal life which is found in Jesus!!
Finally, I wrote above that I have questions about my future. I have also heard questions from others concerning the future of St. John. However, I can tell you one truth beyond doubt about the future we face. My future, and the future of St. John, are in the same hands now that I have retired that they were in before my retirement. Thankfully, as Paul wrote, I am “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It was the Lord Jesus who was present when work was begun at St. John in 1935. It is the Lord Jesus who continues the work of salvation in our lives today and into eternity.
Last Sunday was an amazing day! I am still basking in the glow of the celebration while also recovering from the emotions of the event. In the middle of these conflicting emotions, I find peace to know that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This work of our Lord is true for me as an individual child of God. God is also continuing to carry on His work at St. John.