As I write this, I am remembering these words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (The Voice):
For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven:
A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to collect the harvest;
A time to kill, a time to heal; a time to tear down, a time to build up;
A time to cry, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to dance;
A time to scatter stones, a time to pile them up;
A time for a warm embrace, a time for keeping your distance;
A time to search, a time to give up as lost; a time to keep, a time to throw out;
A time to tear apart, a time to bind together; a time to be quiet, a time to speak up;
A time to love, a time to hate; a time to go to war, a time to make peace.
We have probably experienced almost everything on the list during our three years together. I remember the baptisms, weddings, funerals, bible studies, Lenten studies, Christmas plays, singing, praying, preaching, serving, fellowship, and friendship. I remember it all! There was some tearing down of old ideas and planting of new ideas, some disagreements and some resolutions, some remembering and some forgiving. We have collected car loads full of food for the food bank, housed the homeless, purchased motorbikes for missionaries, and made quilts upon quilts. So many quilts! We have laughed and cried, mourned and danced. We have said goodbye to beloved members who have moved or gone onto the church triumphant, and we have welcomed new people as well. We acquired a new portable piano, made our worship services accessible to our homebound, repaired the handrails, painted, and cleaned. We have survived worship at home in pajamas, in the snow, the rain, the heat, and the cold. We endured a pandemic. There is so much more!
It has been a humbling and gratifying experience to think back with you over the past three years. We have bonded and grown in wonderful ways throughout it all while experiencing a great deal of mercy, grace, joy, and love! The Lord has blessed us in more ways than we can count. The Lord has certainly been with us and has shown us that what we think is impossible, God makes possible.
I have always believed that a pastor is called to in a particular place, for a particular time, with a particular purpose to a particular group of people in a particular community. We may have not accomplished everything that I had hoped for, yet still much was accomplished. Christ Lutheran is a unique church, the spirit of the congregation is one of grace, love, and devotion. I have been so enriched by your love and support over these short years.
Most know that “goodbye” is a contraction of “God-be-with-you”. As we say goodbye this coming month, please know that I will be using that word in this sense. May God be with you. God will be with Christ Lutheran in the months and years to come, and I take comfort in that fact. I hope you find the words meaningful, summing up the intimate relationship between pastor and congregation.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jay Eckman