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June 20, 2010
Deuteronomy 33:29 The Bible has a lot of goodbyes but many of them really don’t say much. In Exodus 18, Moses’ Father-inlaw, Jethro, returns to his home country for the last time. As Zipporah, Moses’ wife, says goodbye to her father, she knows that she will likely never see him again and he knows that he will likely never see is daughter or his grandchildren. The words that were said must have been very emotional but all that scripture records is this…
Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.
That doesn’t say much but in Deuteronomy 33, Moses pronounces a blessing over the nation of Israel before they leave to enter the Promised Land. His blessing takes up the entire chapter but includes these words that I would apply to you as I leave this place.
Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD ? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.
For the next few weeks I will be in an out as we pack up and move the last of our belongings and clean up a few last details in the church office. After that, we will visit only occasionally as Lina returns to see her orthodontist or I visit my audiologist. We are asked to stay away and not visit for a year and we will do our best to comply. Frankly, Barnesville is far enough away that it will not be very convenient to travel back and forth so regardless of any rules, we won’t be around much. For some of you I have been a thorn of irritation for six long years and insofar as this irritation has grown out of my own self-centeredness and other human shortcomings I sincerely apologize. On the other hand, insofar as that irritation has grown out of the radical message of Jesus Christ, I do not apologize. Jesus regularly repeated in his teaching that in his world it was the church that was a big part of the problem and the church was not being a part of the solution. As much as we enjoyed our going away party yesterday, it reminded me of something. Jesus said that his church is called to hold banquets not for one another but to hold banquets and invite the poor, the sick, the lame and the outcasts of society. I sincerely hope that during my time here I have afflicted you. I hope that I have afflicted you in those places where our church and our lives are not in alignment with the desires and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I hope that I have made you uncomfortable because it is our discomfort that causes us to move out of our comfortable places and move toward the places where Christ is leading us. I hope that in six years I have used the tools of affliction, teaching, encouragement and compassion to help everyone to grow in faith, in compassion, in love for others and in love for Jesus Christ. Many things have happened during our six years here. I have performed six weddings, three-dozen funerals and preached three hundred sermons. When I arrived I was little more than a lay speaker with a burden to follow Jesus wherever he led me to go and during these six years I completed a seminary education through God’s amazing grace and with more grace, compassion and assistance from all of you than any of us can ever fully appreciate. Two years ago you walked with us as Patti had her kidney/pancreas transplant and you have tried to understand as we struggled with our children and regular trips to counseling in addition to the visits to the orthodontist and piano lessons and cross country and track and Boy Scouts. 1
Not everything went well. I made some mistakes I shouldn’t have made, some from inexperience, some from a desire to get my own way and certainly some simply through misunderstanding. I do not doubt that some of my mistakes hurt some of you. Not everyone liked the way that I did things and not everyone was gracious. We have been both enormously blessed and terribly hurt by people in this parish but in the end, I believe that we are stronger, wiser and better for having been here. There are memories, both good and bad, that have been permanently etched into our minds and we will never forget. There are people in the church and in the community, though we will be separated, whom we will never forget. I will never forget the snowstorm during our first year here when Jim McWilliams, in Carhartts and an open cab, drove his tractor all the way into town so he could plow our driveway or when Bryce Burgett drove a backhoe from Fredricktown to Steam Corners. I will never forget Mary Louise Simmons fresh baked rolls or her cards of encouragement that she wrote to me during a time when she had every reason to feel sorry for herself. Our family will never forget Grandma Boner for what seems like hundreds of baby-sitting hours and some of them on very short notice. You saved us more times than we can count. We will never forget Thomas and Debbie Steinhelfer who gave us a puppy as we mourned the loss of a dog that lived with us longer than our children. I will never forget Judy Manley who complimented a sermon that I did with flip charts and while doing so told me that she didn’t really like my regular sermons but what I will remember was that she said it lovingly and with such grace and compassion that I wanted to work harder and do better. I hope that I have learned to do better. None of us will forget the handmade cards from Shirley and Lonna Clark. We will never forget the cards, the gifts, the meals, the prayers and the notes of support that we have received from so many people. We will never forget your patience with me as I learned to be your pastor. We will never forget how Steam Corners pulled together after the death of Mike Hartson and how individuals who had never served as church officers stood up and accepted a new challenge. We have been in ministry together through thousands of days and hundreds of hospital visits. We have been together through births and death and everything in between. Many of you have become family and some of you closer than family. As we leave, it is as if a part of us is dying and while we look forward to new ministry and to new challenges, we grieve what we have had here together and what we are leaving behind. As we leave we know that some of us will not meet again in this life but we are confident that we will meet again one day in our new home with Jesus. While we have been here I have prayed regularly for this church, for many of you as individuals and for many people in our community. As we leave, I promise to continue to pray for you as a church. I pray that you will find those things that have been missing. I pray that God will bring healing where you have been hurt. I pray that God would convict you in every place where you wander from the path so that you will be drawn back into his will. I pray that you will follow Christ and be surrounded by his love every day of your lives and I pray that he will pour out his blessings on each and every one of you and that God’s blessings would be given to you in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. Never forget that you are indeed blessed by God, “ a people saved by the LORD.” He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.
You have been reading a message presented at Johnsville Grace and Steam Corners United Methodist Churches on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor of the Johnsville Parish. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Johnsville Grace UMC or Steam Corners UMC at P.O. Box 205, Shauck, Ohio 43349. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at email@example.com. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge and audio podcasts at http://www.sermoncloud.com/ (type the church name in the search box) All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
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