Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
My time with you is growing even shorter, September 30 is fast approaching. Saint Paul says that to be a child of God is to be led by the Holy Spirit; however, the Spirit which leads us is unpredictable. Jesus said that the Spirit is like the wind, blowing this way and that, difficult to see, impossible to control.
This Holy Spirit has a will of His own. Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]. This Spirit goes where He wants and expects us to follow Him.
God the Holy Spirit is not fickle, fanciful, or meaningless; there is always a purpose behind His unpredictable movement ... unfortunately for us, only evident in hindsight. For the purpose of the Spirit’s movement is always to draw people more deeply into Christ, to engage them more fully in God’s mission in the world.
As we are not able to see the wind, but the movement of the tree branches caused by the wind, we see not the Spirit, but the effects of the Spirit moving in the world. As people become more faithful in the Spirit’s ministry, the world moves more in line with God the Father’s plan for it.
As you know, Betty and I, and you as a congregation, are experiencing a movement of the Spirit. September 30th will be my last official day as your pastor; my ministry will come to an end as I retire. And so the wind of the Spirit will blow and we will be carried to a new place and a new chapter in life.
This will mean change for all of us, and we trust that this change will draw us more deeply into Christ and engage us more fully in God’s mission to the world, after all, that is the purpose of the Spirit’s movements. However, at this moment, it may feel like a painful change, an unwelcome change, even an unbearable change … but the future may be breaking in through our wandering hearts and minds.
You may experience emotions rising up within you, strong emotions like anger or disappointment, a sense of joy, relief or anxious anticipation, confusion or abandonment, support or affirmation, self-blame or denial. It may even feel like this is not the wind of the Spirit blowing at all. However, these are all natural and appropriate feelings for a time like this, and it is important to share them and to talk about them.
For our own health’s sake, for the sake of God’s mission in the world, and for the ministry of Bethany, it is important, even crucial, that we do our leave-taking well. We can tentatively, timidly, and confidently speak the truth in love to continue to grow in the one who is our head, in Christ, and promote the body’s growth, as we have done over the years.
And in God’s good time a new and exciting future will begin to emerge, a future crafted by God the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit and faithful to the vision we have come to share in the loving embrace of the risen Christ Jesus, God the Son.
God’s love and blessings, in Christ’s service,