Bishop Lull: God is Not Exiting
Service of Holy Closure at North Emanuel Lutheran Church, Saint Paul (9.17.17) "God is Not Exiting" Act[...]
Service of Holy Closure at Pueblo de Fe (7.23.17)
"Where God Leads Us Next"
Grace and peace to you from God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Last Friday I was driving to a church for an evening meeting. I exited the highway and before me there was a huge sign: ROAD CLOSED NO THROUGH TRAFFIC. Another sign announced: NO OUTLET. A third sign read: UNEVEN SURFACE.
Well … since the church I intended to visit was just a little ways down the closed road, I decided to give it a try. After all, I didn’t have far to go. And, it was the only route I knew to get to my destination.
I sure hope none of you were near the intersection of Route 61 and 70th Street in Cottage Grove on Friday evening to witness the small blue Subaru driving through a construction zone. Because after another quarter of a mile, when the whole roadway was blocked by a mountain of gravel, I realized how foolish I had been. Fortunately, there was plenty of room for a u-turn on that closed highway. Plenty of time for me to pull on to the shoulder and check the GPS for another route to my destination.
What was I thinking? Why was it so hard for me to comprehend that those highway signs were telling me in the clearest possible way – Stop. Turn around. This is not the way forward.
We are gathered this afternoon to worship God. We have come to give thanks for the many years in which Pueblo de Fe has given witness to the power of God at work in our lives. Today is a Holy Closure for this community of faith, which means we will not come together in the same way again.
Do any of us like endings as much as we like beginnings? We live in a world that celebrates new ventures and innovations, fresh starts and holy experiments. We are good at cheering others on at the start of the race. But it takes a certain kind of courage to show up when it is an ending we need to bless. When it is time to give thanks to God one last time. When we don’t know exactly what will happen next.
When Jesus spoke of times of worry and anxiety – and our need in all circumstances – he said to trust God; he knew the kind of bittersweet ache we feel today. So many good things have happened through the witness of Pueblo de Fe, and Trinity and San Martin before that. Baptisms and weddings. Prayer and Bible Study. Jacqueline’s ordination in this very community and countless acts of selfless service and care for others in need. How proud and grateful those of you, who make up Pueblo de Fe, may feel today.
But all of us also feel the ache and resignation of loss; the regrets that we could not carry this mission development further; and the strong awareness that there remain so many unaddressed needs – and so many untapped gifts – among our Latino neighbors. It won’t feel the same without Pueblo de Fe as part of this synod’s work.
Why do you worry? Jesus asks. Your heavenly Father knows all that you need. (Matthew 6:31-32) It is good to remember these words today. After all, it is God’s mission; not our own. The ministry of Pueblo de Fe has never been all about us – the members, the pastor, the synod, or even the hard work and faithfulness of those who gather in this place. The ministry has always been about God and God’s gracious and merciful love for everyone.
And God’s mission – among Latinos within this synod and beyond – does not end today. It will continue in other ways that will certainly surprise all of us here. God will know how to tap the talent of you who found a home within this House of Faith. Because God is like that. And nothing – and no one – is ever lost within the love of God.
So, let us put aside regrets and sadness; worries and disappointments. Let us cling to memories of all the good that happened within this community of faith. And let us trust that God will yet open other ways for us to be a part of God’s mission in this world. As living stones. As champions for the welfare of the city. As witnesses to the power of Christ Jesus, raised from the dead.
As a wise theologian has said – sisters and brothers, in this vast world we are so very small. But we are small in the hands of God. (Krister Stendahl). Now we wait to see where God will lead us next. Thanks be to God. AMEN.