A FAREWELL ADDRESS
The time has come all too quickly to say goodbye to Central Church of Christ in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It is my thought to recount the many wonderful memories of the past 16 years. There have been births, baptisms, marriages and funerals. There have been countless shared meals, shared tears, and shared laughter. But our time would not allow the hours and hours of stories we could all tell.
There have been many challenges. At times we have overcome with faith, but not all the time. Not only were there the struggles common to all churches, God spent many years preparing our church for the greatest challenge: the destruction and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He has been faithful to see us through.
As my ministry here comes to an end, the ministry of this church continues to shine brightly in this community. I would like to appropriate Paul’s words in the first nine verses of Philippians to encourage you this morning.
You Are Loved (Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!) Central cannot take a back seat to any other church when it comes to love and care for each other. As you search for a new minister, you should put your best foot forward. Whoever God has chosen for this work will be blessed in ways they cannot know. You have loved and blessed us for so many years now that we have become very comfortable in your grace. Just as Paul loved and longed for the Philippians … and regarded them as a joy and a crown … that is how I will always regard Central. “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same” (Flavia Weedn, Forever) We will never be the same because of the kindness shown to us in this church.
You Are Able (Philippians 4:2-9)
… To Overcome Challenges (2-3) Paul knew that even though he loved the Philippians, they had some internal struggles. All churches do. I know that you are able to work through any difficulties with one another because you love the Lord first above all. He will lead you to peace and to the joy of working together.
… To Experience Joy (4:4) Real joy comes from serving the helpless, lonely, distressed, and heartbroken together. Nothing bonds people together like serving others together. I have no doubt that many of us know this truth without having to explain it. When we rejoice in the Lord we are rejoicing in the life He has given us. With all of the trials we have been through together, all of the blessings God has showered upon us, and all of the help we have received – no one should be more joyful than this body of believers gathered today.
… To Love Gently (4:5) In the people that we encounter who do not know the Lord, we must always treat them with gentleness. Whenever someone is harsh and abrasive, they are forgetting the grace that brought them to Christ. I believe that as we let our gentleness evidence itself in service and love to others, we are going to find a nearness to God as we watch others come to know Him, and as we grow closer to Him ourselves.
… To Pray in Faith (4:6)
… To Know Peace (4:7)
… To Focus on the Good – no matter the difficulty (4:8)
… To Remember God’s Word (4:9). An Apostle could make the claim of this passage, but I cannot. I can only say that whatever you have learned or received or heard from me that you also found in the Bible – put it into practice.
While we are moving away, we are not going to be far! In the words of that great philosopher,Winnie the Pooh, “Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would I’d never leave.”
I would like to end today’s service by offering a prayer on your behalf – and I ask you to pray for us.
Heavenly Father…Gracious God…I give you thanks for our time spent here at Pascagoula. For the members and friends of this church, for the love and support they have shown to my family…I thank you. For the community…friends made through common trials, I thank you.I am grateful for the times when my leadership has been accepted. And I ask forgiveness for those times when I have made mistakes, just as I now forgive others. I thank you for Al Holliman, Robert Lingle, Jim Ingram, Jack Nobles, Gary Boswell, Jim Wetherington and David Kilbern – men who have served as elders of this church over these past sixteen years. They and their wives gave constant support and encouragement over this time. They join many others in this church who extended both their hearts and their helping hands. As a church family, we pray and trust that our journey of faith to this very moment, our time together and our parting, are a part of your plan…as we always we pray for your will to be done. For cherished memories, for new directions, we are thankful. Bless this congregation and its ministry…bless this community and those who serve within it…and may we in turn bless you with the hope love and faith that has brought us here and that will lead us forward. We pray for your guidance for our leaders as they bring a new minister to our church. We pray that you will already begin blessing Central’s new minister and his family. Fill him with the energy and joy of serving You here on the Gulf Coast. “Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”–Scot McKnight
I’d like to end my message in the words of Garrison Keillor: Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.