6/30/2019 Third Sunday after Pentecost The text is John 9:51-62.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Follow me,” Jesus said, “Follow me, and don’t look back. Listen to my voice and don’t hesitate. Just follow me.”
It’s amazing what those two little word, “follow me,” can do for our lives. With them we are given an invitation to be part of Jesus’ world, to be part of his ministry, to see people as he sees them, and to know the source of salvation. This, my friends, is an exciting invitation…but it’s not without its challenges. For, we can’t be easy-chair disciples, nor can we take our time in responding to his call. We can’t wait until the commercial comes on or a change in lifestyle fits into our plans or the kids grow up and move out of the house. We are invited to follow NOW, or miss out on the fun and the opportunity of a lifetime.
An opportunity of a lifetime…that is what I have experienced over the 30 years I have been a pastor. But I must admit, I resisted Jesus’ invitation. Like the people in today’s gospel, I came up with a boat load of excuses as to why I couldn’t go…not then, not now, not ever. But, as excuse after excuse fell to the wayside, in the end, if I were to find peace in my life, I had to follow, trusting that God would guide me and lead me to where I needed to be in order to serve his people.
I must admit, I hesitated and I weighed my decision carefully, as it wasn’t easy to leave everything behind and go to seminary, totally on the basis of faith. For, faith is always needed to move in an unfamiliar direction, and that was especially true during the time when women were new to the ministry and people were reluctant to call a female pastor. In the end, in order to go, I had to trust that if God was calling me to follow his road for my future, God would put me in the right place at the right time to serve the right people with the right skills and gifts that he had bestowed upon me. Almost 19 years ago God’s call led me here.
For the 18+ years I have served as your pastor, we have grown in God’s grace. The numbers on the church roles and the money in the bank may not reflect that growth. Instead, the growth is seen in the faces of those who are here today. For many of those faces were not here in the year 2000 when I became your pastor. And many of the faces that were here have since passed.
Today, we are no longer a Swedish congregation, but a melting pot – embracing a budding diversity and the unity we share as the Body of Christ. Over the years, I may not have always done what you wanted, but I pray that I have always followed what God wanted me to do and served you faithfully. Throughout those years, we have rejoiced as children were brought to the font for baptism. We have watched our youngest members grow into adulthood and take their places beside us. We have mourned as some of our dearest members left this life for the heavenly banquet that awaits all believers. And we have been saddened by the lure of the world which has drawn many people away from the church in order to do their own thing. Through the years, we have laughed together. We have cried together. We have worshipped and prayed together.
Over the 18+ years we have worked together, many of the Quinsigamond Village churches that were here in 2000 have closed…BUT we remain…and we must continue to trust that the Good Lord will lead us to where we need to be. Without this trust in God’s faithfulness, we will become like people in today’s gospel who choose to follow Jesus only when it is convenient or when it is to our liking. With faith, we step forward with Christ into an unknown future confident that God will be with us. With faith, we listen and learn and grow each day…so we do not get stuck in the past, or bogged down by fear, but strive to follow where Christ is leading us. For, the Good Lord is taking us on a journey, a journey for a lifetime. And sometimes we fall off track and find that we must take two steps back and a couple to the side in order to follow him and to use the gifts that God has bestowed upon us for the work he has given us.
For all of us, there are many twists and turns in our lives, and many doors to open along life’s way. When we head in the wrong direction or go through the wrong door, God calls us through the spirit to go another way. Sometimes, we have to do it the way I did, only through finding out that what I wanted and felt that I needed in life didn’t fill the bill. Coming from a poor, working class family, I had to find out firsthand that it isn’t that big house, that important job, that nice bankroll, that sense of security that comes from earthly possessions that brings contentment to life. That which fulfilled my life and brought peace came not through orchestrating a future, but through following the Lord who calls each of us by name.
My friends, today, our shared ministry will come to an end. But we will remain connected always, not only through memories, but also through Jesus Christ. Today, I will leave you as my journey will take me down a different path, and an unfamiliar road. And as I leave, I thank God and all of you for the time we shared…for it has been a blessing to be here.
Today, as we part company, you will travel down your own road, answering Jesus’ invitation to follow him. Although the road may be unfamiliar, do not be afraid. Be open to God’s guidance. Do not hinder the Spirit by what you want and feel you need. Be willing to go through open doors and leave the past behind. Let God be your guide for God isn’t finished with you yet and God isn’t finished with me.
Believe and trust in the Lord, my friends. Answer the call to follow and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen