Forty years ago, I bought a Bible. It saw me through seminary, and my first few years of ministry. It was large enough to hold my sermon notes as I travelled from church to church, and several professors at my seminary had helped to produce it. That Bible was well used, and it looks it. The cover is badly worn and damaged. The spine is falling apart. Rather than use it until I lost it, I sat it on my shelf as reminder of my journey.
A lot has changed since I bought that Bible.
In 1978, a word processor was a computer sitting on top of a desk. These days, it’s an app on my laptop. In 1978, churches sang hymns from a book. These days, many churches project song lyrics on video screens. In 1978, stores closed one day a week. These days, stores might close one day a year.
I’ve changed, too.
My hair is lighter. My waist is wider. I’ve lived in six different communities, and served twelve different congregations. I survived the Blizzard of 1978; saw Berwick High’s football team win a national championship, sold ice cream cones and rib eye steak sandwiches at a Boat Regatta; learned to sing church choir tenor, talked over coffee with homeless folks, raised rabble with local officials; launched a GracePlace and a Families First; installed a floor in Kentucky; coordinated hundreds of clergy moves, reported on eighteen annual conferences; sent children off to school and college; celebrated baptisms, confirmations, graduations, weddings, the birth of our first grandchild, and much, much more.
One thing hasn’t changed.
It has always been a joy and an honor to spend my days serving the people of God. Ministry hasn’t always been easy, but, to borrow a line from a movie, it’s the hard that has made ministry great. Paul wrote it this way to the Corinthians…
The real power comes from God and not from us… In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again… Our lives show what his death was like, so that his life can also be seen in us. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11, CEV)
For the past six years, I have been your pastor. Over that time, it has been my honor to serve a church that seeks to live and grow in Christ, bless its community, provide a holy space for mission, and offer Christ to the next generation. You will always be in my prayers, and I will always thank God that my last years of full time ministry have been spent with you.