To our friends and family of Spring Creek,
My time as your pastor is coming to a close. Our family has felt the winds shift, and we are moving to a new place to live and work. Recently I preached a sermon about how you can't push the river. It was focused on resisting anxiety, whose remedy is an ability to stay present to the grace of your life. For me and my family, that has meant listening to the undercurrents of the Spirit, and allow the river to move us along the right path.
Our new church home will be the First Baptist Church of Pasadena, CA. We did not see this coming, and are still in awe of the circumstances that have drawn us to this church and them to us. The journey involves more than time allows here, yet it is also as simple as this: this is where God seems to be calling us. They are a church that will call out the best parts of my leadership and service, and I hope to do the same for them. As Corrie says it, they aren't a perfect church, but they seem perfect for us. So we are ready to join our lives to theirs.
We have had a wild ride together over these last few years. It has not always been easy, but we were never promised easy. We had to learn how to trust one another again, and are trusting a new generation of leaders to emerge. We celebrated the rhythms of life and faith together, from funerals to family dedications. We have said goodbye to many from our founding generation of charter members, while also welcoming new faces to our church. This is a bittersweet reality, and we have learned to face the paradoxes and tensions of life with courage and clarity. You all have become sturdy deep in your bones, a rootedness born of struggle. It will be tempting to revert to more familiar instincts long outgrown. I will pray for you all to resist that seduction. The path is in front of you, not behind.
Thank you for the ways you tried to make room for our family to be part of your family. Thank you for allowing me to be myself, even when that was disappointing, or challenging. Thank you for listening to so many sermons, and helping craft those sermons too. My most grace-filled memories will always be the times I stood behind the pulpit and guided you all through death to resurrection. We have had more funerals in my time than any other pastorate at SCBC. I was able to be present at that most intimate of thresholds. I was always most impressed with our church during these moments. I have said it a hundred times, and will say it once more now. The Christian life is one long journey toward death, and learning how to die well. A liturgy of resurrection only makes sense when preceded by liturgies of death. This looks like ashes smudged on foreheads, candles extinguished on Good Friday, and the bread and cup on our altar every month. This looks like a sanctuary filled with flowers, our altar replaced by a coffin, and our Gospel more visceral than any morning devotion could ever uncover. I have done my best to lead you into the complexity of life, the mysteries of death, and the hope of resurrection. Sometimes I craved a shortcut. You did too. But we stayed the course together, and were rewarded for our efforts with grace and glimpses of heaven.
Now our paths diverge. I am heading West, to work among a new congregation and city. I will keep you in my heart as I go, and ask that you continue to pray for me and my family. Also, let me encourage you to begin praying for your next pastor. She/he is somewhere in the world, unaware that the Spirit is about to begin moving again to bring you together. Your elders and deacons will work with the staff to discern the way forward now. Find a place to serve in this wilderness season. Practice kindness and compassion, be courageous in your love, and be quick to forgive. and once more...May the LORD bless you and keep youMay the LORD make His face to shine upon youand be gracious to youMay the a LORD lift up His smile upon youand give you peace,now and all your days.In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.Amen.