It is early on a Thursday morning as as I write this note. Prayer Meeting last night was a little sad for me as my dear friend and brother Pastor Ted was not there. And he won’t be there next week either… But in God’s provident kindness, I had a wonderful opportunity yesterday to speak with a lady who walked into the church office and wanted to speak with a pastor. This is rare – maybe a couple of times a year will someone walk in like that. I was able to encourage her to return to the scriptures to hear God’s voice in times of sadness and discouragement.
As I sit here this morning I too am reminded that the Lord speaks to his people through his word. Not only during the kinds of traumatic persecutions that our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world are facing right now, but even in our times of mere relational wistfulness.
In 1 Thessalonians 3, we read that Paul was concerned, even anxious, about the state of the Christians that he left behind in Thessalonica. He is worried that somehow the people there had been tempted and fallen away from the gospel. But then he gets a report from Timothy that all is well! And with that doctrinal assessment comes a relational gem that should catch our attention:
“[Timothy] has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.”
Isn’t it wonderful that the Holy Spirit deemed it necessary to include the relational note as well as the doctrinal affirmation? Isn’t it amazing that our all-wise God includes a comment underscoring the legitimacy and quality of the longings that we feel for those who have moved on or away – either in this world or to the next? And isn’t it unspeakably gracious that God is able to sanctify to us our every memory of another person (none of whom are actually perfect!)? And doesn’t this affirm the comforting truth that our relationships continue. Despite miles and years we are in one another’s hearts and our longing to see one another again will in truth be realized completely on the day when our comings and goings will never end and our goodbyes will be rendered cheerful “see-you -laters” by the backdrop of our eternal communion.
Ted and Cindy, you will be missed more than you know. And not just by the Bjerkaas family. You will be missed by the Church in the Canyon family. And I assure you that our every memory of you both will always be pleasant – and for good reason. God has done a tremendous work of grace in both of you and we were so very blessed to have had your best and ripest years. We are so grateful for the way you led us in worship, preached the Word of God, ministered to those in need, and shared your Sunday morning with our kids. We will always long to see you as often as you care to stop by!
Dear Church in the Canyon, God hears your hearts as well as your voices. As your pastor I am keenly aware of some of the thoughts and feelings many of you have. God the Holy Spirit honors your affections for those you miss. And there will be a reunion beyond what you can ask or imagine! Until then, let’s delight in and treasure our every shared ministry experience with the Neales as we pray that God blesses their “retirement from retirement” in every way!