Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

> Christ UMC; Served March 2011–June 2015

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Approximate Notes for the Last Message at Christ UMC

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This is the last Sunday that Debbie and I will join this community for worship. For the last four years and four months, Christ United Methodist church has been an important part of our lives. As with all journeys, this part of our lives must now come to an end.

As I stand here before you today, I know that I am leaving a huge part of my heart with the community of Christ United Methodist Church.

Last week I was struggling with what to say in today’s message. How do I say what needs to be said as you and I — the community of Christ United Methodist Church – face this transition in our lives? How do I summarize all the thoughts, emotions, hope and sadness as Debbie and I leave this community that we have served and the people that we have come to care about?

The truth is starting afresh does not always feel entirely happy and that endings and conclusions do not always hurt. While goodbyes and farewells have a certain element of sadness, every end is the beginning of something new. Letting go brings peace and allows us to face the future.

God put those who came before us “to work … and take care of” (Gen 2:15) this garden that today we call Christ United Methodist Church, and God put all of us here today to continue this mission and to carry on that tradition. Going forward our task is to explore new horizons in ministry, to continually reinvent ourselves as a community and to seek new ways to serve God by being God’s partners in ministry and mission!

Each community is different. Each community has its strengths and each community has its own gifts for ministry. Each community bears different fruit of the Spirit.

Let us talk about the strengths of this community:

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  • Relationship with God. “Living God” is not just a phrase to this community. We’ve seen Jesus show up time after time in our midst; we know how it feels to be in God’s presence and we know how to draw strength from God’s presence. The joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh 6:8). Do you take joy in God’s presence? Does God take joy in yours?

  • Vision. You heard me right. This community has a vision. You worked hard to develop it and I am proud of you. This vision comes out in the form of ideas for mission and outreach. Consider each other’s ideas; be diligent about working together and figuring out how to put these ideas into practice. Most importantly and I cannot stress this enough, {1} stay in love with Jesus, and {2} be flexible, adaptable and patient with each other.

    As I get ready to leave, I want to encourage you to get together a few times to boil your vision down, and verbalize it so that you can write it down on a back of a small envelope. Read it every time you get together for a meeting, covered dish supper, or to worship. Memorize it, unite behind it, get energized by that vision and you will move mountains. Hint: Your vision should not be longer than 20-25 words, and should not be based on the ideas of someone who is not in your pews.

  • Unity, liberty and charity. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, is often quoted as saying “In essential, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

This community is united in the essentials of our faith; I see you being respectful of each other’s opinions, and we know a thing or two about charity. That unity, liberty and charity helps us to keep first things first and bear plentiful fruit (Matt 7:18) of the Spirit as we serve God and the world in which we live. I hope that this will never change.

As I think about what has happened in our church family in the last few years, the story of Lazarus comes to mind.

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I have spent so much time talking about vision, and before leaving I would like to share my vision for both CUMC and FUMC.

{Illustration}

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At this time it makes a lot of sense for the two communities to share expenses. My hope is that both CUMC and FUMC will be diligent in their outreach, mission and community involvement and that in a few years you will not need to share expenses because you will be able to stand on your own two feet. Here at CUMC we have a great foundation and I have no doubt in my mind that you can get there. You have the vision, you have capacity and you can develop the outreach and put forth the effort. I watched you do that. – See the “Go Write a Song” sermon from June 7, 2015 preached during joint service at FUMC.

When that day comes, I hope that both churches realize that although you no longer need each other and can continue on your separate paths, your mutual relationship has grown and you can be so much more productive being in ministry as a UNITED community. That way you will not have to be yoked, you will want to be yoked. That is my hope and prayer for our two communities of Christ and First United Methodist Churches.

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In conclusion, Debbie and I want to thank you for accepting us and loving us and for all we have learned from you. I will miss working the Tea Party Festival, Stop Hunger Now events, and joint services with Potter House ministries. No matter where I get a roast beef sandwich in the future it will never be as good as one that CUMC makes, and you also make the best lamb kabobs. We will miss you, and we will always cherish our memories of you and our time together.

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We accepted your love, and you accepted ours, and now we trust that our time together and our parting are in God’s will. We trust that God calls us to a different mission and we trust that God calls you as well. It is time for all of us to step out on faith and trust that someday it will all become clear. We trust that it is time for you to stop turning to me for pastoral leadership, and to welcome your new pastor into your midst. Pray for Pastor David, pray for his wife Jeannette, and continue to serve God here on earth, as you will eventually serve God in Heaven. Be God’s voice, be God’s hands, may God be your conscience as God lives in your hearts.

Thank you for being part of our lives and allowing us to be a part of yours.

 

Litany of Farewell

Leader: Family of Christ United Methodist Church, time does not stand still. The life of our church family is fluid, ever changing with new lives, new visions, new possibilities and new ministries. These changes bring with them opportunities and challenges.

It is important for our church family to recognize and to celebrate these endings and beginnings. Today we say farewell to Pastor Asher and Debbie who shared our journey for the last few years, and now it is time for them to move to a new appointment and a different church family.

All:

Loving and Gracious God! You have blessed and sustained us for many years and have given us life together in the Christian family of this congregation. We are asking you to bless the community of Christ United Methodist Church and guide us as we reflect upon and celebrate our history, and as we hope and dream about the future. Help us prepare for the next stage in this congregation’s life. Give us courage and vision; help us to stay flexible, adaptable and patient as we face the challenges of ministry. Most importantly, strengthen us in our Christian vocation as we serve God by serving the world in which we live and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world.

Asher: As Debbie and I stand before you we thank you for the love, kindness and support that you have shown us. We thank you for welcoming us into your church family. We thank you for the grace and forgiveness that you have extended us when we made mistakes or did not meet your expectations. We thank you for your prayers in our times of need. We thank you for your love, kindness and support. We will cherish our memories and apply what we have learned from you in future ministry. We celebrate with you all the things that this church family accomplished in the last four years and we are excited about what you can and will accomplish in the future.

Leader: Next week we will receive Pastor David Ryan and his wife Jeannette into our family. Our Bishop and the Cabinet of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church discerned that his vision, passion for ministry and vocational skills are well matched with the goals of our congregation (Ephesians 4:11). Let us all pray for Pastor David.

ALL:

Loving and gracious God! We uplift Pastor David and his wife in prayer. As we start this new stage of our lives, we pray that you bless Pastor David and his ministry. We also thank God for God’s guidance on the pastoral appointment process. May our efforts and ministry, outreach and evangelism be like a pleasant aroma in God’s presence, because God’s joy translates into our strength (Neh 6:8).

In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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