Sunday, February 11, 2024

Retirement Gathering Thank You, February 10, 2024

[I shared this thank you during a gathering held yesterday at Living Water Lutheran Church. It was originally scheduled for January 6, but I contracted COVID right before it was scheduled and it was postponed until yesterday. The gathering happened yesterday.]

Hebrews 1:3 says this of Jesus (I’m reading from the Good News Translation): “He reflects the brightness of God's glory and is the exact likeness of God's own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word. After achieving forgiveness for the sins of all human beings, he sat down in heaven at the right side of God, the Supreme Power.”

Today, I thank God that in Jesus Christ, all my sins and all your sins are totally, completely forgiven.

Jesus, God the Son, achieved the forgiveness of our sins by dying on the cross.

God the Father confirmed this victory by raising Jesus from the dead.

Today, Jesus sits at the right side–the power side–of God the Father, the Conqueror of sin, death, and the devil, all for our sake, all to give us life with God that is ours today and will be forever.

Our call is to daily turn from sin and death–to repent–and to follow Jesus, trusting that–as you’ve heard me say before–when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it.

He has done everything needed for your salvation, everything needed for you to be reconciled to God, everything needed to set you free to love God and love your neighbor.

Today, I also thank the people who have helped me to partake of the freedom of Christ and who have supported, encouraged, and nudged me not only as a child of God, but in my calling as pastor.

I thank Ann for being my wife for more than forty-nine years, for nagging me into going to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Columbus, where I, a rebellious sinner, an atheist, heard the Word of God that convicted me of my sin and then set me free with the Gospel about Jesus.

I thank Ann that she was supportive to me when I threw her the most unexpected curveball of her life. “Ann,” I said, “I think God is calling me to be a pastor.”

I thank our kids for enduring the lives of “pastor’s kids.” Both planned on being here when this gathering was originally scheduled. But after COVID scrubbed that and our son had to eat the cost of his airfare, we told both kids they didn’t need to be here.

Thank you to Living Water for going to the trouble of putting this gathering together. I feel a bit guilty about it when I consider all of the people who come to the end of their working lives without so much as a pat on the back. But thank you anyway…and thank you for the past ten years!

Thank you to my internship congregations and my internship supervisor and his wife, Pastor Jim and Jan. They gave me opportunities most pastoral interns don’t get: to preach and lead worship every single week.

Thank you too to the other congregations I’ve been privileged to serve as pastor–Bethlehem at Okolona, Ohio; Friendship of Amelia; and Saint Matthew in Logan.

Thank you too, to those from those congregations who are here today–and those who showed up a few weeks ago to find that the event had been indefinitely postponed. It has been an honor to serve as a Minister of Word and Sacrament and to have acquired lifelong friendships in each of these churches and communities.

Thank you to all of our friends–those we’ve known since elementary school, high school, college, seminary, early married life, and through all the subsequent years. We have laughed with you, cried with you, worshiped and prayed with you, in some instances traveled with you…and lived to tell about it. Each of you have been important in helping us to know God’s grace and in keeping our sanity, what’s left of it.

Thank you to all of you!

In retirement, I pray that God will help this saint and sinner to proclaim in whatever ways I can that, because in Jesus Christ, God the Son, all our sins ARE forgiven, we can trust in Him.

“For,” as Saint Paul tells us, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Thank you.