September 6, 2018
The Pastor’s Pen
“Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work…Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when it was over, he was famished.”
Luke 3:23a and 4:1-2
Change is difficult. Change is stressful. Change opens fresh possibilities for the future, even as it carries grief for what has passed. Our faith tradition guides this process through watching the example of Jesus, and through formally recognizing this process as we move through it together as the people of God.
In our book of worship, there is a liturgy for “Times of Passage: Farewell”. It begins like this: “Our church family is constantly changing. People come and go. Babies are born. Children grow up. People commit themselves to one another. Loved ones and friends among us come to the end of their lives. Individuals move into our community and church life. Others leave us, moving away to new places, new experiences, and new opportunities. It is important and right that we recognize these times of passage, of endings and beginnings.”
As you read these words, you may recognize transitions in your own life: recovery from illness, the beginning of treatment, the empty nest when a youth grows up, the end of a job, (whether voluntarily relinquished or not), the death of a family member or friend. Several members of our congregation are retiring from work they have loved and wonder with some measure of anxiety what the future will bring.
Facing the closure of thirty years of local parish ministry, I looked to scripture for guidance on how Jesus’ navigated his life transitions. It comes as no surprise that the greater the transition, the more deeply he relied on God through prayer. When Jesus ended the carpentry business he had likely done with his family for fifteen years or so in his youth, he went off into the wilderness for forty days of prayer and fasting. He trusted God with his future.
When Jesus traveled and taught for countless days on end, the Bible tells us he got up long before dawn and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. After a day of healing the sick and ministering to those in need of God’s compassion, Jesus got into a boat and went across the lake to the other side to renew and reflect in the presence of the only One who could fill his now empty cup.
What Jesus did not do was try to fill his time 24/7 as if he were indispensible. Jesus did not deny that changes were happening. Jesus did not avoid the changes, but rather prepared for them by looking to the Holy One who could and would guide him through.
This is what Jesus did do in times of transition. He prayed and trusted God with his life and with the people he loved, whatever the future might hold. And though he did not explicitly say so, I imagine him saying to you and to me the assurance he so frequently offered to his people: “Go in peace this day. Your faith has made you well.”
God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,
Pastor Anna V. Copeland
Support Justice, Mercy and Peace for All.