A work in progress. I have lived my whole adult life with that phrase tucked in my head and heart. At various times, I have interpreted it in different ways. When I was younger, I felt I had to work hard to make something of myself, sometimes changing course when I hit a dead end. As I have grown older, though, I have come to understand what God has been telling me all along. The one doing the all the heavy lifting in my life is God, not me. Over and over, God has steered me away from danger or rescued me from it. God has poured out forgiveness when I did not deserve it. God has saved me from myself more times than I can count. And now God leads me into the future, calming my fears and assuring me that God will show me a way to serve God in a new and different way.
A work in progress. All that I have said above is true of all of us, young and old. It is also true of our congregations and parish. God is doing the work here: the work of loving and forgiving and strengthening you to continue to be the body of Christ in this lovely part of God's creation. And God is leading all of you into a future filled with new and wonderful things. We all are works in progress; none of us is what we will be. With God in charge, what shall we fear?
Below is my favorite Martin Luther quotation. I have carried a calligraphy copy with me for 30 years, one that was created by a member of my internship congregation. Isn't it amazing how Luther has captured God's continual grace in our lives and how Luther's wisdom still inspires us after 500 years?
This life therefore
is not righteousness
but growth in righteousness,
not health but healing,
not being but becoming,
not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be,
but we are growing toward it.
The process is not yet finished,
but it is going on.
This is not the end
but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory,
but all is being purified.
Billy and I will be living at our rental house in Floyd until the end of September. As of tomorrow, we are discontinuing our land line and will be using our cell phones. Also, going forward, we will be using new email accounts, which will work in Panama: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
As much as it pains me to say this, I will not be able to act as your pastor after today (my official retirement date). Per synod guidelines, I will no longer be able to do weddings, funerals, baptisms or pastoral care. This does not mean my concern and affection for you is ending (far from it); it is to allow an interim or permanent pastor and the parish to begin a new ministry together and to build trust and cooperation with one another. I will, however, be able and most happy to receive friendly contact while we are still here and then through email (we will not have mail service in Panama). Billy and I promise to share pictures and updates on our new adventure with you, too.
I urge you to take this opportunity of pastoral vacancy for both congregations to work together as much as possible. You are yoked together in the gospel and have much more in common than you have differences. Together, your light shines in the wider community and beyond!
We look forward to seeing you at the gathering on September 15th, where we will be able to celebrate the ministry we have shared for nine years. Thank you to the joint council for arranging this event!
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. - Colossians 3:12
Thank you for the honor of being your pastor. I love you all, deeply and forever.