On September 14, 2003, our first Sunday here, Pastor Brad and I talked about stories. I told you a Turkish proverb, even though I didn’t know I would see Turkey with some of you. The proverb says, “The only thing better than finding either a story or a treasure is to share it with a loved one.” Trusting that we would grow to love one another, I shared a few stories with you.
Nearly fourteen years later, dear people of God, I have a lot more stories to choose from. I have stories about learning to watch for what God is doing right here and now and how we could be part of it…stories about working and playing side-by-side…stories about holding each other’s hands and crying on each other’s shoulders…stories about dancing and celebrating well into the night. All these stories have shaped us and made us who we are.
After today our stories will take a slightly different turn. Yet, because we have a shared past, your stories will still be MY stories…and my stories will still be YOUR stories because we have journeyed together…because, as Frederick Buechner puts it, we have “sung together and prayed together and seen each other’s faces.”
In an even larger sense, these stories will still be OUR stories because we are part of the same grand story…the story of God’s love for the world. No matter how far apart we find ourselves we will always be tied together through our shared past in the Christian tradition, our shared story of faith, and our common mission.
It has been a privilege to share stories and laughter and love and faith with all of you. I pray that when you think of me you will think about our shared story of faith and our common mission of journeying with Christ, each other and the neighbors God gives us. Know that when I think of you, I will be thinking the words St. Paul wrote as recorded in the book of Philippians…his words to the congregation whose stories he knew, the people of God he cherished:
“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me…”
Blessings, my friends.