Today was my last day actively serving as the Pastor of Holy Spirit. At the other end of some unexpired vacation time is my next call. And initially I was not preaching at all today- after all typically the Sunday after Christmas is a nice day for all request hymns interspersed with the readings and communion. Still Christmas-ing. And last week was the farewell reception and of course post-Christmas Eve is usually a lightly attended Sunday. And yet, it somehow didn't seem right to simply not preach, not even a little. And then I looked out and saw that the retired visitation pastor was in worship- having come to hear me preach one more time. Well, then- I counted on the Holy Spirit. Which is to say that I did not write down what I would preach and this is just a fairly good recollection of what was proclaimed on a day when I also recognized outgoing council members, and installed new council members and officers- and that would end with the litany for godspeed and farewell as I walked from font to pulpit to altar and relinquished the symbols of the office.
"This is the end. It's the end of the calendar year, and it's the end of cultural Christmas- just looking around I have already seen a couple of trees cast off, stripped bare and forlorn. This is the end too of our time together as pastor and congregation. And yet our readings today would suggest that what seems like the end is not after all. As we hear in Isaiah of God doing new things, and we hear the tale of Simeon in the Gospel. His whole life, Simeon has been waiting to meet the one upon whom salvation will be borne. Waiting. Believing that promise that he would see. And now here in the temple he meets Jesus, and this time has come to an end. Now he could be dismissed- in peace.
And yet, its not the end as we know for Christ will go on to carry out the ministry for which he was sent. There is so much more to the story. And so too for us, as we heard in the epistle, that we who are empowered by the Spirit and bear Christ, for us there is more. Perhaps especially for a congregation that has the audacity to call itself the Church of the Holy Spirit- watch out! There is more, because our God is a change agent. God's story is always one of change, as the church of Christ moves ever forward.
And in each of us, each of you, there are gifts by that Spirit for the sake of the world and this city and this congregation. And we are given a holy job- to bear God's story of good news. We are given this gift- it is a gift. And although it may take us from here to many other places and into the paths of many other people- we are given the gift of this holy task. And so there will be more to the story.
But as I leave you I want to share two quotes I hope offer inspiration. I hope that's not too self- indulgent of me. The first is from Howard Thurman and it speaks to this very season of the year in which we find ourselves.
"When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among others, to make music in the heart."
Sisters and brothers, this is our work- the work of Christmas, and of Christ lasts throughout the year-this is what we are created to do. Share this work, for the sake of a world desperate to know Christ.
Which leads me to the second quote- this one from Catherine of Siena, speaking to the work of the Spirit in each of us and our baptismal identity.
"Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire."
Be who God meant you to be. Set the world on fire- keep working for the gospel
And may God bless you in all you do- because it's not the end- the story goes on.