On June 18th, I will preach for the last time as the pastor of Tullahoma FUMC. As we exchange farewells, I find myself reflecting on what remains after we part.
Life holds infinite worth. A simple cup of cold water lovingly offered to a thirsty child endures into eternity, “never losing its’ reward.” (Matthew 10:42). Faith, hope and love remain forever (1 Corinthians 13:13). One day, Jesus will recall how we fed, clothed, comforted and welcomed those in need (Matthew 25). We make purses that never wear out, an unfailing heavenly treasure, by giving to God and neighbor (Luke33). Righteous acts endure forever (Psalm 112:9). If our acts of faith, hope, love, justice, mercy, goodness, and righteousness endure into the Life to Come, then any farewell on this earth is not a final parting.
Each holy moment we share remains with God and within us. Friendships rooted in faith, hope, and love continue past goodbye. When we smile remembering a treasured life, the memory bolsters our present, and enters eternity. If we grieve together placing our hope in Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, we will rejoice together inside the Great Cloud of Witnesses. If we wept together, God will dry our tears while celebrating our grief-born communion. Whenever we lose ourselves in wonder, love and praise, surely heaven sings with us. When we share Jesus’ Words, the lesson rings beyond this age. When we feed, clothe, house, and welcome neighbors, our blessing remains long after the meal, coat, or rent disappears.
If God’s Spirit distilled some insight through my words, God’s grace ruminates on within our souls. If you forgave me for too long stories, half-baked plans, texts pushed too far, chickening out, failing to follow up, or some other omission or transgression, then God’s forgiveness reverberates deep within your soul and fed by forgiving, your soul yields greater love. If we laughed at ourselves, accepting God’s acceptance of sinners like us, I think the laugh echoes around Heaven. If we rejoiced together, our joy must mysteriously resonate with the heaven’s unspeakable joy. If we built anything anchored in the rock-solid teachings of Jesus, that construction will survive beyond this life’s storms. Each act of beauty, grace, forgiveness, justice and love transforms us and transcends this life. With each holy moment, God gentle reworks any unloving, unholy, ugly threads within us, weaving into our souls a gracious tapestry that transforms our imperfect earth-bound strivings into unfailing heavenly stuff. “It does not lose its’ reward.” Anything born of God can be picked back up right where we left it.
I am deeply thankful for your love, patience, forgiveness, and kindness with me. Let us celebrate all that is good, and entrust all the rest to our gracious and loving Lord. Let us keep striving, for whatever good God has done in our midst remains forever and whatever we did that fell short of love, needs to be forgotten or forgiven! Let us embrace Pastor Wade, looking forward to the holy moments you will share together. Thanks for the honor of pastoring this church.