In June, 1979, a newly-called pastor wrote in this newsletter (then called “Focus”):
There’s a lot to celebrate in new beginnings. The Bible in numerous places lets us know that God takes delight when a fresh page is opened in our lives; when we stand with one foot on a good heritage and the other poised for a new step of risk – and faith.
Funny, but these same words seem to apply as this pastor writes his final article.
I am so grateful for all these God-blessed years in ministry with the people of The Presbyterian Church in Burlington. As someone has said, I kind of grew up here. If that’s true (!), how much you’ve had to do with that!
We have shared much together. We have welcomed many, and said farewell to many, too. We have done a little good in the world – at least, I believe it, by God’s grace.
Now, we are moving on to new beginnings: Cathy and I, to discover what callings God has for us in retirement. This beloved church family, to discover God’s vision for it in fresh ways, and eventually to welcome a new pastor. I know that the future for this congregation is bright, because I know you, and I know the goodness of God.
Our Easter faith proclaims that there is the seed of a new beginning in every ending – that even the darkest realities cannot deny that hope. That is how much God has loved us, in Jesus Christ. As we celebrate together this Easter, and then our “new beginnings,” remember this.
And love one another.
We will soon be peering beyond the glow and celebrations of the holidays into the new year. We eye its coming with expectation and uncertainty, hope and anxiety. We know for certain that change is on the way – for you, and for me. The church family will be entering an important time of both saying goodbye and affirming its strengths as my time for retirement approaches at the end of April. More importantly, we know that the challenges of staying faithful to the meaning of the Incarnation, of Christ’s presence in human life, of the message of his coming in peace and with good news for the hurting, will go on. It was his work; now it is ours.
I’ve used this quote from Howard Thurman many times, so I hope you’ll be patient with my offering it one last time. Thurman was the Dean of the Chapel at Boston University for many years, the first African American to hold this post at a mostly-white educational institution:
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.”
— from The Mood of Christmas
Another quote from Thurman points toward the hope we can have as we try to follow the Christ of Bethlehem into a struggling world:
“In the conflicts between man and man, between group and group, between nation and nation, the loneliness of the seeker for community is sometimes unendurable. The radical tension between good and evil, as man sees it and feels it, does not have the last word about the meaning of life and the nature of existence. There is a spirit in man and in the world working always against the thing that destroys and lays waste.”
This “something” we know as God’s Holy Spirit. It is at work in you and me, in the Burlington church, and everywhere people are trying to do “the work of Christmas”.
Good hope for this new year!