Mem'ries, Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were
Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another, for the way we were
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
1. At the Edge of the Promised Land
Over the course of the journey a people is formed, laws are given, and they come to know and depend on their God. Throughout the journey, Moses is their leader, but now, as they reach the edge of the promised land, Moses climbs the mountain and looks in.
When I came here, nearly four years ago, I didn’t expect to stay so long. I figured you’d find a pastor and I’d figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. Things changed and I stayed for another three years. My title changed and in many ways my role in this congregation changed. I went from interim to be pastor, always knowing that a time would come when we would have to discern God’s direction. That time of discernment has come, and in recent weeks it became clear to me that I wouldn’t be going into the Promised Land with you. As the congregation’s search committee began its task of discernment, my name went out to congregations across the country. I was happy to stay here, but in the end I heard a compelling call to take up a new ministry in a place far from here.
For some of you this announcement will come as a surprise, while others of you have known that this was about to happen. Next Sunday, at a congregational meeting, the members of Central Woodward Christian Church in Troy, Michigan, will vote to confirm a previous vote by its search committee and board to call me to be its pastor. I will begin this new ministry in July, after Brett and Cheryl finish their school years. Although Brett was accepted at Cal State Northridge, he has decided to come with us. That decision on his part has made our decision to go much easier. Last weekend, while in Michigan we met the congregation and even bought a house. We are excited about this new ministry, but we will be sad at leaving this place.
After Moses comes down from the mountain, dies and is buried, "Joshua son of Nun" who is "full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him," steps forward and takes up the mantle of leadership. God hasn’t left the people leaderless. There is a changing of the guard, but God has readied Joshua for this task. Now that Moses is gone, the people embrace his leadership – just as Moses had commanded them.
I don’t know who your Joshua is. Even the search committee doesn’t yet know who that person is. She might be a woman or he might be a man. This Joshua could be young or not so young, experienced or perhaps not so experienced. But unlike the last time the search committee went to work, this congregation isn’t divided and its not hurting. It has a sense of purpose and identity. That sense of purpose and identity will give the search committee strength as it discerns who to call. It’s possible that this person might not be ready to come on July 1. There may be an interim period, hopefully not long, as the choice is made.
I want to say thank you for your love and support during this time of ministry. When I came to you, I was hurting and I didn’t know what my calling was. I needed to heal, and that healing has taken place. And as a result I’m ready to take a new challenge in a new place. I will be a better pastor because of my time here. I will miss you and I will often think of you – especially when it gets down to zero at night!
But take courage, because God is with you. I believe that the same Spirit that led me to Central Woodward, will lead another to this place. I look forward to hearing the reports of new ministry taking place here in Lompoc. And, so "If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? Could we?"