Handshakes, hugs, tears, smiles, laughter, and a host of memories filled the air during Sunday evening’s farewell gathering for Angela and me at College Church. The above picture is indicative of the thoughtfulness with which congregants expressed their affection and appreciation; in this case it came in the form of cupcakes decorated with the colors of the Italian flag. Yes, I felt the love.
Here is the big lesson: during almost two hours of nonstop conversation on the receiving line, no one thanked me for running a church program. Every single comment, bar none, concerned some instance in which I had extended pastoral care. “Thank you for visiting me in the hospital.” Thank you for praying for me when my spouse died and doing the funeral.” “Thank you for seeing my wayward son in jail.” “Thank you for encouraging me on that day when I was depressed.” Clearly, the common thread to everyone’s appreciation was the love of Christ expressed through relationship. Wow, what a lesson!
I don’t mean to belittle the various tasks and procedures of which church ministry consists. These are necessary. However, we must always remember that such tasks are simply a means toward an end. At the end of the day, it’s embodying and proclaiming the redemptive love of Christ that matters most.
Thanks College Church for giving me the privilege of serving as your pastor these last eight years. Italian cupcakes are an appropriate symbol for the way you have reciprocated the sweetness of God’s grace in our friendships. For this I can’t adequately express my gratitude!