Yesterday, as I attended my final service as a visitor at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lake Township, the pastor spoke of New Beginnings.
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”” (Matthew 16:21–28, NIV)
He tied it to the Gospel reading highlighting what Jesus was doing, preparing his disciples for something new. Peter, the Rock, was tempting Jesus in words that were meant to be supportive, but did not understand that the things Jesus was speaking of must happen. Peter was being human, seeking the least painless way instead of the way of God. We don’t like the idea that we may have to sacrifice something to have something better. Jesus knew this and was preparing his disciples for the sacrifice to come. I loved how he used it to prepare the congregation for the new era coming to them as I transition in as there new pastor, there will be sadness that the pastor of the last 22 years has retired and his role is changing, there will be excitement with me as I enter into the new role. There will be differences also, some people may like, but some people may not because I’m not my predecessor and will never be. This was a good reminder for me to be prepared, but also for the congregation.
Moving to Fort Wayne, IN from Zephyrhills, FL signified a new beginning for my family and I in many ways. My parents decided to stay down and will be selling the house and then settle into something for them in the area. We will be adjusting to a new community, new schools, and different weather. The community of St. John’s has been overwhelmingly welcoming to my family and I which has been great. The support we have received thus far has been wonderful and I am so looking forward to what God has in store for us.
Changes came with pain, it was painful for me to leave a call for another only to have that call end in a negative way, but in the response I have received from St. John’s signifies to me that something greater is in store. Honestly, it was through the pain that I was opened to look at the possibility since, like I have been asked many times, most would probably not desire to leave the warmth of Florida for Indiana, “What led me to Indiana?” My response has been and still is, “God.” I was like Peter when I was discerning when I left my first call and entered into the second. I thought it would be less painful, i.e. I would be able to stay in Florida. The congregation was a nice congregation in Florida also. My family and I were welcomed in our visits. It seemed to be a good fit. Unfortunately, I erred and allowed the process to be hurried and in excitement did not discern whether or not it was the right fit. So, in the end what I thought would be less painful became the most painful.
New beginnings are exciting and sometimes painful, but if God’s will is in it greater things are in store. In life it is good to seek out what it is that God desires and in time your desires may be in line with God’s. David is described in the Bible as “after God’s own heart.” That was not because he always did the right things, but even when he felt the pain of loss he cried out to God and sought forgiveness and sought after God’s own heart. I seek the same and I pray that you do also.