On the road again
I’m leaving town and the Holy Spirit is going with me. Well actually, I believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding me to a new place. And I believe that the Holy Spirit will be staying back here with my sisters and brothers in Christ too. And the Holy Spirit is also waiting with God’s people on the other end. Always has been. Always will be. Until the last day.
What’s the deal? After 22 years of relishing a deep, rich, loving relationship with God and God’s people who gather at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter, I am leaving. I am accepting a call to serve as pastor at First Lutheran Church in Aitkin. From what I hear, several local congregations have been, over the past couple of months, saying farewell and Godspeed to their senior pastors. If those other pastors are like me and my wife, this happens with no small amount of prayer, soul-searching, tears and then finally excitement and anticipation.
New pastors will be coming here to serve amongst the congregations. Pastors come and go. They are not “the church.” The church doesn’t belong to the pastors. The Church belongs to God — in all of its denominations and forms. Remember the old Sunday school song? “The church is not a building. The church is not a steeple. The church is not a resting place. The church is the people. I am the church. You are the church. We are the church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world, we are the church together.” On the first Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell upon and entered into all of God’s people, and then they proclaimed “the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:11) That same Spirit continues to enter in and move through the lives of all of God’s people to this very day. It is the Holy Spirit who gives life to The Church and its mission for Christ in this world. The Spirit moves through pastors, but sometimes even more effectively through the laity.
In the early days of Lord of Life, I was out knocking on doors inviting people to help start a new congregation. In more recent years, it has been the invitation, the welcome and the loving care of Lord of Life’s members that God has used most mightily to grow the church in faith and in numbers. The church on this end of my move just lay to rest a wonderful confirmation mentor, Jeff Kozitza. At 49 years, after perhaps 15 years of mentoring, Jeff directly touched the lives of perhaps 100 squirrelly seventh and eighth graders. And his faith in the face of death lifted an entire congregation. He wasn’t a pastor. He was a mechanic and carpenter. So was Jesus. The church on the other end of my move, lost their two regular pastors over two years ago, yet they served Christmas dinner to 250 people, serve a weekly community meal and host a community food shelf. Jesus fed people too.
Don’t worry about your pastor’s leaving. Thank God for any good that they were able to share among you. Wish them well. Pray for them. Pray for the congregation that they are headed for. Then, pray for your own congregation, its leaders, the call committee, the children, the elderly, the single parents, those who grieve… Then ask God how you personally can be a part of God’s good and gracious will to strengthen and enrich the mission and ministry of your faith family, your church in the days ahead. You can count on the Holy Spirit to be moving in you and in your church.
The Apostle Paul says this: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
Your pastor may be gone. But you’re still here. And so is the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God!