As the time approaches for my family to move from Indiana to Pennsylvania next month, life has almost been too busy for reflection. Selling and purchasing a home. Finishing teaching one seminary class and finishing being taught in another. Trying to hand off responsibilities without fumbling or trying to hang on to them too long. Planning for not one but two (!) weddings for our children and their moves before we move. Though each day seems to bring more thoughts swirling about our minds and activity whirling about us, how thankful Miriam and I have been for those who have told us they are praying for us. The peace and presence of Christ are real.
One aspect of moving is the countdown. You begin to realize the number of times you have with the church and enjoying certain activities with the saints has always been limited in number. Yet now that number is known, and it is a single digit. From how many more sermons I have left to preach here to annual church events that our children know is their last, each one becomes a reminder of how imminent the move is.
In reflection, it is often the smaller, concrete memories of church life that bubble up to the surface of your mind. Each one brings a smile to your face followed by that sadness that lingers in your heart as you realize that season of your life is drawing to a close. Memories such as...
...eating another delicious meal with the elders and deacons in our quarterly joint meetings that has been lovingly prepared by our wives .
...playing sports with the young people until every muscle aches at our annual Memorial Day picnics and fall camp-outs.
...working in my study in the winter with the warm, toasty feel as the church's boiler kicks on as I prepare to be with the saints on the Lord's Day.
...receiving countless pictures like the one above of me preaching that always make me laugh as they "accentuate" my hairline. Though I think parents are usually encouraging their children to draw pictures of a lesson or illustration in the sermon, somehow these budding artists must see me up there posing like a model.
...watching our associate pastor spy out the church windows at suspicious activity in the surrounding neighborhood. Jason, a former policeman, has led officers to make quite a number of arrests. I never see this stuff.
...collecting the weekly quizzes in my little Greek class at the academy and seeing my daughter's "I LOVE YOU, DADDY!!!" scrawled across the back with hearts all around it.
...having the young children come up to me after the service to show the pastor a missing tooth, tell me about a family event, or, in the case of one young girl, grab my hands so we can jump up and down to laugh at her bouncing pigtails.
...catching my wife's knowing eye in the midst of the congregation as we sing a psalm portion that has a promise we are both especially leaning on at the time.
...driving up to the building in the springtime and rejoicing in the work either young people or deacons have done to spruce up the yard around the church with trimmed bushes and new mulch. This year a deacon even planted geraniums that add a handsome touch.
...witnessing once again our congregation warmly welcome and love a needy soul, despite the countless heartaches we have experienced in mercy ministry.
...having the little ones gather around me for a children's sermon. So often the object shown triggers eager comments and follow-up discussions after the service.
...honoring anniversaries, guests, special achievements, and birthdays at our fellowship meals. Indeed, some of our children may be growing up thinking that the second stanza to "Happy Birthday" is "Food Jehovah Gives the Hungry."
In truth, these are not "little" things. Rather, like the cords in a rope, they are the multitude of experiences with the saints that are being woven to form the bonds of eternal fellowship (Ephesians 4:1-3). How comforting to know that, in Christ, time, distance, and even death cannot sever them.