For about a month now I have been giving thought to what I believe are the two driving (and ever-present) forces in life: love and change. Love we like; change – not always. Love supports us, holds us, encourages us, while change is often viewed as an unwelcome challenge, one we would, given our “druthers”, prefer to pass by.
As a people of faith we have, in our Sunday school classes and in church sermons, learned many of the stories of love in scripture. God loved the world into being. The Israelite people knew God’s love in the arduous but rewarding journey out of slavery and into freedom. Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law Naomi led them both into a new and better life. God loved humankind enough to enter in among us in the person of Jesus. And God and Jesus loved us – all of us – enough that God gave up his son (who willingly entered in) so that we would come to understand God’s everlasting love and God’s promise of eternal life. “…God is love” the Bible says in 1 John 4, and adds “…if we love one another, God lives in us and [God’s] love is made complete in us.”
By and large we do not embrace change; we feel threatened by it, we know it will be hard. And yet if you look back at the Bible stories referenced above you will note that all involved change. We don’t know what was before God created the heavens and the earth but surely there was change at work in that divine spark! The Israelites left a brutal existence but headed out into an unknown one…one that lasted for many decades. Ruth and Naomi find new life after they return to Bethlehem. With Jesus’ birth, and in particular in the time of his ministry, change was the operative factor in his life and in the lives of those around him. The lame walked, the blind saw, the deaf heard – who was this man and by whose power did he do these things? And then there was the cross, the tomb – these were changes his disciples did not expect, and certainly did not want. And yet, out of Jesus’ ministry, over two thousand years later we gather in his name to worship God, to love our neighbors, to go out into the world and minister to others.
These observations are prelude to share with you my plans in the coming months. At the end of June I will be retiring from my post here as your Parish Visitor. You might wonder why I would be making this news known so far in advance. Much as I have had a chance to plan my retirement, I wanted the church to have time to make its plans. Over the past month I have been talking to those who have been at the core of my ministry with you, letting them know personally of my decision. Many have expressed sorrow or disappointment, but have been accepting of my need to find my “call” in retirement life, to discern what volunteer efforts I want to give my time. I have, and will continue in these next months, to delight in the work I do here; I am blessed to be among you. The change that will come with my departure will be challenging from my perspective as well.
We are not saying or praying our goodbyes now – let’s save that for June! We should however keep in mind the ways by which love changes us – that after all, is what love is: love is transformative.
With blessings, gay williams