It's done. I preached my last sermon at Hope this morning. We celebrated communion; Jack presided. Amanda and Graham put a William Cowper poem to new music. Saint Richard the Divine Van Dyke composed an original (artistic) liturgy. We were benedicted--and benedicted again--and again--and again. Hope is so good in the benediction department. We were saturated with words of blessing.
We were also commissioned to the city. During the commission elders prayed blessing, pastoral staff prayed, my parents prayed, our friends prayed, artist leaders prayed. My little sister Stephanie was there. Geno "cat-dog" Hildebrandt MC'd and did such a fabulous job of making the day special for us. And there were a lot of tears, the really good kind, profoundly happy and sad but full of gratitude. Deb Dorman played Dennis Jernigan's "Blessing" song, which is really one of my favorite songs ever.
My sermon was "A disciple of Jesus is mature and fully assured," working from Colossians 4:12. I may post my notes later. But the three disciplines I suggested marked a mature disciple were:
1. A mature disciple is teachable--his whole life.
2. A mature disciple talks to Jesus--about everything, all the times, on all occasions, no matter how silly or embarrassing or difficult or small it may be.
3. A mature disciple chooses a few people to be his kindred traveling companions.
If I were stranded on a desert island and could only say three things, those would be they.
Then we lunched and fested and eulogies of the living were declaimed and an eight-minute slideshow of all my hair styles through the ages was shown. So many ridiculous hair cuts. And I was a gifted a new set of golf clubs! I can't tell you how happy that made me. I was like a little kid.
Phaedra and I feel so well loved by this community of dear people at Hope Chapel. We are going to miss them sorely. God has used them to help me grow up, to become a man, a Christian, a husband, a good friend, a better preacher and pastor. I am what I am because of this sweet church that has been known through the years as full of love, acceptance and forgiveness. My personality type (A-type, self-sufficient, strong-willed, driven, achievement-oriented) needed a thorough soaking of these. Thank God!
I have been well loved. I am well loved.
If there were a sacrament of closure, I experienced it today. I am no longer the arts pastor at Hope Chapel. But I have been anointed, and Phaedra along with me, we have been blessed in the Triune Name, we have been sent, we have feasted, we have laughed, we have cried good tears, remembered old days, and we look forward now to a new season and station of life.
Tomorrow we enter officially a three month sabbatical season where we'll rest, play, nap, garden, swim, watch "Planet Earth," muck around with our nieces and nephews, read loads, nap, re-organize the garage, and play golf.
I'm very excited and frightened about this new season. But that's ok. Phaedra and I will walk it out together, one day at a time, baby steps.
All is grace.
A General but Very Heart-felt Thanksgiving
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all paces, may give thanks to you in all things.