I Corinthians 15:58 (GW)
So, then, brothers and sisters, do not let anyone move you off the foundation of your faith. Always excel in the work you do for the Lord. You know that the hard work you do for the Lord is not pointless.
As I prepare for the end of my service to you as the full-time pastor at Angelica I have been searching the Scriptures for the right words to say that would sum up how I feel and would encourage all of you as you go on without me as your pastor.
I remember how I felt when we began our work together in September of 1995. God called me here to proclaim His Word in word and deed so that you would continue to hear the truth of God’s love as we have come to know it in Jesus Christ. It has been a privilege to bring that comforting message to you in good times and bad times, at the baptismal font, on a wedding day, or by the grave side of loved ones. Let us always remember why God brought us together in the first place.
But now I am preparing to leave the position as your pastor. Many of you have come to me and expressed your feelings. There is a range of emotions that is felt among the members of Angelica – some sad to see me leave – others relieved or happy to see it happening. There are going to be a variety of feelings and opinions about this and that is okay. Everyone is entitled to feel the way they do, and even to express it in appropriate ways. But deep down, we should remember that God is the One who calls us to follow Him in all our decisions. He knows our needs and leads us to do what is best even if we do not always understand or agree with it at first. I feel that it is time for me to hand this ministry at Angelica off to someone else. I feel it is God’s call, not mine, not yours.
So now it is time to focus on the future, both for me and for you as we go about our separate ways. Your task as a congregation does not change just because I will not be your pastor anymore. Paul wrote in Acts 20:28-31
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert.
My concern is not that God will not provide faithful preachers to help you during the time between my leaving and the next full-time pastor God sends to you. But there will be temptations to seek ways of continuing as a congregation that appear to be the easy way – choosing to let someone else do the work that needs to be done instead of getting involved myself, taking ways that are shortcuts, or choosing ways that seem to save money even though they may not be the best.
The primary purpose of Angelica’s existence is to be faithful to God’s Word, to continue to live in ways that honor our Savior Jesus Christ, and to share the love He has shown toward us with everyone we meet. I pray you are always found faithful in those responsibilities.
Now is a difficult time, the end of my time here as your pastor and the beginning of a process to call your next one. The work of the Gospel does not end. It is an ongoing task as you move forward as a congregation. Do not stop sharing the message of God’s Word. Remember that this is not YOUR church, it is Christ’s church. He is the Head of it, we are merely caretakers of it for the brief time we have in this world. This is where He wants to give you the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation through Word and Sacraments. Do not ever take your focus off that.
Although we may become separated now, for all who believe in Jesus as our Savior we are always united and will see each other again in the joy of Heaven. It will always be my prayer that God richly bless the ministry of Angelica, giving thanks to Him for the time we had together in Jesus’ name.