As I sit writing this I am also preparing to lead a funeral for a much loved church member, Jim left us much earlier than we would have liked, he hid his condition for months not wanting to worry anyone. When it became obvious that something was very wrong he challenged us all with his quiet acceptance and strong faith. All who visited him before his death we comforted by his words “I am at peace with my God, he loves me…” and he really was at peace, he knew where he was going and although not in a hurry he was willing to go, he was ready. He was able to be ready because he knew that his ending also heralded for him a new beginning, and his confidence and faith illuminated that hope for us all.
Last weekend we held a final service in South Milford Chapel Building, within its walls worship had taken place for almost 200 years, through the witness of the congregation seeds had been sown, and lives had been touched and transformed. Over the last few years it has become more and more evident that the building, though fit for purpose in its time, was no longer viable. In February we took the hard decision to close, and we ended well. The small congregation is stronger and more focused, free from having to maintain a cumbersome building they are able to look to the future and ask what God has for them now. In their confidence that God has not finished with them yet there is a hope for a future.
I reflect on this as I prepare to end my ministry here in the Snaith and Selby Circuit and realise that life is full of beginnings and endings, and that every ending holds within it the possibility of a mini resurrection, but of course embracing that hope and that possibility means being willing to leave something behind. Jim left his sisters, nephews and nieces, but he has left them with many memories and an encouragement to hope. The Members at South Milford leave behind a building, but they take forward with them memories and encouragements, and look together to a new future. I will leave many loved folk behind me, knowing that I have made a difference in their lives just as they have in mine, in some cases we have grappled with some tough stuff together and are in many ways stronger for it.
In all of this God is at work, leading and guiding, upholding and calling us on, bringing us closer and closer to the day when all will be made new, reminding us that neither death nor endings in this life need be failures, and that even the darkest situation holds within it the seeds of hope. Change and growth are inevitable, we can fight them, or we can recognise them as a natural part of our discipleship rejoicing that each ending brings to us the possibility of a new beginning, an echo of the life to come…
1I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. 2I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. 3-5I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” (Revelation 21: 1-5)