Month: March 2017

The Farewell Road

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I preached the last sermon tonight.

Not for my congregation. I’m on a Wednesday night rotation until Easter, so I’m visiting other churches once a week. But tonight was the last sermon at this particular congregation – and other than my own, it’s the one I’m closest to. As people filed out tonight after worship and shook my hand, a few dozen said, “We’re going to miss you. God’s blessings on where you’re going.”

And I said goodbye tonight to a number of people I love. I may see them again around town – I’m still not leaving for a number of weeks – but I won’t likely see them in my position as pastor.

So tonight I preached my last sermon. And… I pointed to Christ. I didn’t point out it was my last visit. I didn’t point out that this was my farewell. Because it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. I don’t care if they’re sad I’m going. I care that they’re connected to Christ.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I do love them. And I want that love returned. If I was quickly forgotten.. I don’t think I have the good grace of John the Baptist to say, “He must increase, I must decrease.” I still have too much of the narcissist inside me that wants to be remembered well.

But… I want to be remembered this way: As a man who pointed to Christ. Not to self. Not to church. Not to tradition.

To Christ.

I planned out my last service in my congregation today. The last service serving this group of people. My last chance to speak in front of people that I love so, so dearly. What do I do? Do I plan out a “normal” service to stress that nothing changes? Do I honor those who will be sad by tackling my leaving directly? Do I pick my favorite hymns, or nondescript songs to match the theme of the day, or…?

My church uses a three-year cycle for Scripture readings in worship. I looked up what we were supposed to use that day… and found that one of the readings is Peter reciting what he preached. Christ crucified. Christ risen. Forgiveness of sins.

Perfect.

So my last week will explicitly focus on what the focus of worship is: Jesus. It’s about what Jesus has done. Always. And even after I go, it must be what the center of worship is. And for the next pastor. And the pastor after that. And the pastor after that.

And I am merely one more link in a chain of people pointing to Christ.

And that is the focus of my last Sunday here. And off I go to be another link in another chain. And I’m ok with that.

Not forgotten. Not derided. Simply… a man who points to Christ.

All the other details? Go ahead forget them. Let me point to Jesus. He’s the one you need, anyway. Certainly not me!

So as I say goodbye… let me point you to Christ, one last time.

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To Weep Over Destruction Long Awaited

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Jesus stopped on the approach to Jerusalem. He saw a city full of people he loved, people he would soon pour out his blood to save. He knew that so many would reject him, but he was willing to die for them anyway. And as he looked over those ancient walls, those ancient gates, the Temple, as he saw all those souls… he saw the shadow of what was soon coming. He saw the Temple destroyed. He saw the walls demolished. He saw so many souls destroyed.

And he wept.

He cried out in his grief in the tragedy yet to come. He knew what was coming. He knew it was a natural consequence of so many rejecting him. He knew that he held out his hands all day long to an obstinate people, but they still turned their backs trying to find something better than Jesus. Something more “positive.” Something that itched their ears.

He wept anyway.

And these days, I identify so much with Jesus. I am leaving my congregation soon, and so many don’t realize that things are not great here. They don’t realize how precarious their position is. And I weep, because I do not see good times ahead for this place I love so much, these people I have given for. I have pointed them to Christ, but so often they’re content with simply “church.” Some people weep that I’m leaving. I will miss them. My heart will remain here; I will need to grow a new one where I’m going soon. At the same time, one person here told me, “You’ve not been my pastor since you got here.” A few others who left the church are rejoicing that I’m leaving so they can finally come back.

And still, I weep. I hurt so much for my flock that doesn’t realize… they don’t know, even though I’ve tried to warm them. (more…)