Faith Connection. Pastor’s Post. June 2019
I find myself counting the days until my family and I and a couple of friends pile into our cars and disappear across the Throgs Neck Bridge for the last time. I count the days not because I can’t wait but because I can’t imagine how between now and the middle of July we will deal with all the “stuff” we have accumulated over the past many years of living on the east coast. (By the way, if you like “stuff” please drop by before the second week in July. I am sure we can accommodate you!).
A while ago, I realized that my only real hobby is reading books and storing quite a few more in the hope that I will eventually have time to read them all! I know that in this day and age, everything should be weightless, that is, in digital format—but so far I have not been able to give up the feeling of a book in the hand, not to mention that my taste runs to the obscure, probably undigitalized, volumes that I found in the back rooms of second hand stores, back when we had book stores. So, you see the problem: lots of heavy books to haul across this huge nation.
I find myself thinking of the children of Israel as they prepared for that departure from Egypt. It probably was a good idea that Moses didn’t give them a lot of time to think about their pending departure. Suddenly, it was the day before—”eat a good meal, and get your sandals and your walking stick ready—we leave in the morning.” Of course, since they had been slaves, they probably had not had much opportunity to accumulate a lot of stuff. In any event, they set off, into the unknown desert, with only this quirky fellow Moses to guide them. We know they eventually reached the Promised Land, but it took them 40 years! No maps, no GPS in those days and a leader who insisted they take a long side trip to Mount Sinai national park.
Our Lord was constantly on the move—from village to village, and then that long and difficult journey toward Jerusalem. He was a country boy who knew his destiny lay in that distant city.
When he finally arrived there, he was killed for what he taught and what he embodied, but he returned to declare his eternal love for his people and the world. In the spirit, he led his people to carry his message of hope throughout the world. We have been studying in church the travels of the first great missionary, Paul, who founded churches throughout the Roman Empire, never resting, frequently persecuted and finally martyred. Once Paul encountered Jesus Christ, he simply could not sit still.
For me, my pending departure seems more like a transition from one journey to another. Your church, the United Presbyterian Church, is on a journey, or you might say a second leg of a longer journey that began with the founding of the two historic congregations about 70 years ago. Your journey is not geographic—you are staying here on Long Island, but you are now entering a different spiritual and social landscape. I have been privileged to travel with you these past four years and have tried to help guide you through the uniting of your congregations. Now, I am setting off on my own journey, and I will miss being part of what comes next for you.
I hope in these last weeks to share more thoughts with you about your road ahead. Here, I simply want to say that the first and foremost thing to remember is that you are on a journey, you are not standing still. Traveling means change, it means new dangers but also new opportunities. A lot of the road is uphill, in the sense that many people in the surrounding communities no longer see the importance of being part of a church. Your pews do not automatically fill up with new recruits as they once did. Even your own children seem to feel self-sufficient in terms of spirituality. So, it is important to keep in mind that your primary purpose for being here is not to achieve growth in numbers or in financial security, your purpose is to be faithful to Christ: to open the Scriptures and read and reflect as a community, to celebrate the unity and inclusiveness of the people of God at the communion table, and to engage in outreach and mission as God’s spirit and your Christ-inspired compassion leads you. God will open the way for you.