“I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”
I’ve always loved this prayer from Paul.
He is writing to one of the communities of faith that he serves while he is apart from them. He writes to them as friends, and co-ministers of the gospel.
At the beginning of his letter, he expresses his deep appreciation for their partnership, as well as his greatest hope for them: That they might continue to be filled with the love of God in such a way that it will guide their every step.
My friends, as I write this last devotional to you before we part this Sunday – this is my prayer for you and for all of us.
I want you to know that words can hardly express the depth of gratitude I feel for this congregation. Over the last four years, you have become friends and family. You have been a place for me to grow in my call to ministry, and as a fellow spiritual companion. You have helped me learn what it means to be a better pastor and leader. You have challenged me. Thank you.
I have also seen you grow and change. I have seen you take on challenges that at times have seemed too big – and you’ve risen to challenges with grace and courage. I have seen you take care of each other with your encouragement and your kindness. I have watched new people find community in your midst, and long-time members find a depth of relationship that cannot be manufactured. You inspire me and I will always look upon our time together with joy.
As we get ready to part ways – I want you to know that my prayers will continually go with you. I pray that you keep growing in your love of God, your love of one another, and your love for this world that God has given to us. I pray that you will be people of great compassion, mercy, and justice – and that your love of God will guide your steps in ministry as individuals and as a church going forward.
I will always be proud of the work we have done and the lives we have helped. I will also always keep an eye out for what awesome things UMC Madison does next. I know that with God’s help and your faithful leadership – God will do even greater things.
Thank you for being the community I’ve needed in so many ways over these last four years.
With love and gratitude,