Thursday, April 28, 2011

My epistle to the Beloved Saints in Bellevue

Dear Friends,
Thank you for all the wonderful cards, emails, phone calls, and letters that we have received since you learned that we will not be returning. Paul the apostle once wrote a letter to a church that he had served. He was thinking how he could show a new church his qualifications.
          It was common then as now to have a letter of recommendation.  But he said this, “You yourselves are our letter, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts,” (II Corinthians 3:2-3). 
I feel the same way about you. Paul said that the people of that congregation were like open letters to be read by all. He was proud that by the power of the Holy Spirit he had written the Lord’s name on their souls. And so if anyone wanted to know what Paul had done for the people or for God, all they had to do was get to know the people he pastored. That is how I feel about you all. If anyone wants to know what I did for the Lord at OPPC, they only need to look at you and know that I preached Jesus Christ. 
You are my letters of Christ, prepared by me, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on a computer but on human hearts. In the letters and phone calls I have received, I was surprised to learn things like, “I became a Christian because of you,” and that from a man who was in the church decades before I arrived on the scene. I was delighted to hear things like, “Because of Charlie we have Jesus in our hearts.” I can not tell you how happy this makes me feel. 
When I came to you fourteen years ago, I was asked to bring Christ’s healing to the church. I saw and felt a people who had been battered and yet who had a great gift. You felt broken and wanted more of God. That was your gift - your realization that you needed more of God’s presence, more of God’s guidance, more of God’s incredible holy power.
         I recognized that and began to preach and teach Jesus. It felt like rain falling on a thirsty ground. Dormant seeds opened to release tender shoots of life. I began to preach and teach the Holy Spirit.  The tender shoots grew tall and strong watered and fertilized by the God’s Spirit. Power and joy were released as we all grew in love and unity.  
In truth, I have sought to do nothing more and nothing less than preach in words and actions and even silent stillness the love of Jesus. I led you to value faithfulness to Christ above all else. 
I thank you for allowing me to enter your hearts and homes as your pastor. I thank you for trusting me with the most important things of your lives - things like sorrows, dreams, and failures; fears, hopes, and tears; confusion, smiles, and hugs. I thank you for asking me to lead you. I thank you for asking me to counsel you. I thank you for asking me to lead you in worship. I thank you for asking me to teach you. I thank you for asking me to live among you. 
And just as your lives show my holy work, so also mine shows yours. On my heart are written words of Christ’s love and grace and passion which you penned through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
I chose to leave you because I discerned through various signs that my ministry was completed. I feel so good about the the work that has been done. God called me to you when you were very broken. You are know a healthy, strong, well functioning church which is ready to go new places with a new pastor. And I will go to lead another church that needs the gifts I have to spur them on to a new experience of Christ’s kingdom. As the kids say, “It’s all good!” 
And yet of course when people love each other as we do for each other, to part is to cry to weep, to feel loss. Debbie, Henry, and I cannot express how much we love you and will miss you. It will be wonderful to be with you all for a farewell party the second Sunday in August. I will get to preach to you one last time. Bring plenty of kleenex - you know I will cry!
Christ brought us together for a set time for holy and wonderful reasons. Let us give him thanks for that! 
In Christ’s love and fondness,