“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 worry 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.” Philippians 4:4-7 NRSV
As the old song says, “And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain …” Maybe a little dramatic, I know. At least I am facing my final blog post. The past seven and a half years have been filled with some pretty amazing moments, some very difficult challenges, many life events of which I have been a part, and a great amount of joy. As a pastor I am privileged to be a part of so many different aspects of people’s lives. I have had the pleasure of preaching about 290 sermons, welcoming over 300 new members and over 100 confirmands, baptizing dozens of babies and a few adults, and officiating at around 130 funerals. I have been in your homes and places of business. Our kids have experienced school and youth group together—and even some graduated from high school together. It has been an incredible honor and blessing to serve as Senior Pastor at St. Andrew’s for these years.
July 1 of 2012 I preached my first sermon at SAUMC entitled, “The Most Important Thing.” In that sermon I communicated that the most important thing was to fulfill the Great Commandment. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with everything you have and to love your neighbor. Well, almost eight years later I still believe that is the most important thing. Today I want to share a final thought with you as your Senior Pastor. It really is a little more than one thought. I want to share the five things I hope every follower of Jesus does. Here it goes …
1) Rejoice in Jesus! Really rejoice in Jesus and celebrate your relationship with Jesus. Jesus is the reason any Christian experiences life to the fullest. It is because of Jesus that we are saved. We are all saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. [Ephesians 2:8] Rejoice, give thanks, and praise Jesus for all that you have and with all that you have.
2) Love everyone! Seriously, everyone. Jesus said this is how everyone would know that we are His followers—by our love. [John 13:35] Express love to everyone in your life, especially the ones who love us. Love even those with whom you disagree or who are harder to love. Christ loved us and gave his life for us—this is the love we are to show to everyone.
3) Pray about everything! The Apostle Paul wrote in the verses above—don’t worry, pray. We too often get anxious, worry, take things into our own hands, or worse become hopeless. Don’t! Pray instead. Prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do as followers of Jesus Christ. In prayer we are communicating with the Creator of the universe—everything seen and unseen. Prayer is a demonstration of our belief in who God is and our faith that God will provide.
4) Live in peace! As Paul wrote, it is the peace of Jesus that passes all understanding in which we should live. This is the peace that guards our heart and mind in Christ Jesus. In John 14:27 Jesus calls this peace a gift. We need to lay hold of that gift, open it, and use it as Christ intended. Be at peace with God through your relationship with Jesus. Be at peace with others having the mind of Christ. Be at peace with the world around you remembering that God is still on the throne. If you want a tremendous resource on how to live at peace read The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, by the Arbinger Institute.
5) Stay focused! One of the realities of life is called drift. Drift is that experience of unexpected or unnoticed movement. Like when you put your towel down on the beach and get in the water – if you don’t pay attention the current will take you away from your towel. This is true spiritually. Perhaps this is the reason the author of Hebrews told us to fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. [Hebrews 12:2] Those who follow Jesus must stay focused—fix our eyes on Jesus—in everything we do: thought, word, deed. Our purpose in life is to love God and love people, and we must stay focused to live this out.
I pray that over the years you have seen me strive to live these things in my journey as a follower of Jesus. I also pray that we will all strive to live them out in the years to come. Thank you to everyone for the love, support, and friendship you have shown me and my family over the last seven and a half years. We are blessed by the time we have spent with you. I will be praying for SAUMC during the interim months with Pastor JC and for the long term with your new Senior Pastor. May God bless you all richly as you seek to lead people to experience God’s grace through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
This Sunday I hope you will join me at our one combined worship service at 10 a.m. for worship. You can also go to SAUMC.NET and join us via livestream. The best is yet to come. I love you all and can’t wait to see you in church!