I am not Paul writing a letter to the church at Corinth, a church he started, and left. I don’t take the authority to write a letter and correct everyone. Perhaps as my departure from Albion races closer, I should take the opportunity to be a little bolder, a little more angry and prophetic. But the fact is that I’ve said it all a thousand times from the front of Wesley Chapel. By now, there are no surprises between us, and we have become like old friends who love one another with gentleness. I imagine that some of you feel the same toward me, and I thank you for the joy of being your pastor for this happy season of my life.
Like an old friend, I worry a little about the unhealthiness that I see creeping up in a couple of places. Some of you have learned to be dissatisfied with one another. Some of you take too much authority, and others too little. If I were staying longer, I would take one or two of you aside and talk about it, a little like a doctor telling you to lose weight and exercise more. In the long run, however, our complaints and dissatisfactions and disorders are very small things. The big things are like the creeping old age of a friend. We are so familiar that we don’t notice the changes. We are smaller, a little more unsteady, not as sharp as we used to be. So it is with the church. We enjoy ourselves very much, relishing one another’s company and the things we can talk about. And we spend more and more of our time in the living room, less and less time outside in the garden. More time making ourselves comfortable, and less time working on the work of God.
Over the years, fewer and fewer of you took part in our Faith in Action weekend. So we quit doing it, and nobody noticed. But the way to stay strong is to serve. We should have done it every month, every holiday, every time we turned around! Believe it or not, that was and is the best way to grow the church. More and more with every generation, service is the path to church revitalization. Service to the world outside our walls is the way forward. It is the time to invite and engage new friends, to show that we are in fact more alive than even we have believed.
This is perhaps a little like telling you that you can get in shape. You’ve tried, you’ve tried, you’ve succeeded, you’ve slipped, you’ve failed. Why try again? Because unlike our inevitably aging bodies, our church’s health never actually has to decline. There is rebirth for the church, just as there is for our souls. Maybe it has to die a little before rebirth, but rebirth is the way of Christ, so we’d better believe in it!
My dear Albion friends, there will be lots of goodbyes this month, followed by lots of new hellos. We all play small parts in the very long story of the body of Christ. We should ham it up while we’re on stage, play to the balconies, step up and deliver our lines with gusto before our individual parts come to an end. And serve Christ at every turn, in every neighbor, through every storm and in every moment of calm.
May God watch over us, while we are apart. And may you be blessed throughly with the hope of life in Christ that possesses me.