Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. Luke 24:50-51 (NRSV)
As a United Methodist pastor, I’m fully aware that I could be moved from year to year. Fortunately, in my annual conference, the trend has been to leave many of the pastors in place for a longer period of time, and as I approach my eighth year serving the two small churches who are such a blessing to me, I’m grateful that I have been able to stay put for this long. My hope is that I will be able to remain for a total of ten years which provides stability for the congregations as well as for my husband and me.
We discovered just how hard moving was when we moved to our new location. It’s hard on the congregation to have lost a pastor, and it’s particularly challenging if that pastor was dearly beloved. One of the things I faced in serving two very different congregations was that they each grieved in their own way, and they each needed pastoral care that applied to their situations. So, as I pastored these wonderful new folks and began to learn about them and assimilate into their lives, I also went through my own grieving after having served my previous church for ten years.
This week was Ascension week, and the passage from Luke tells us about Jesus departing from this earth and leaving his disciples behind to carry on his mission and ministry in the world. Maybe some of us can understand the range of emotions they felt as they watched him leave: grief, fear, anxiety, wonder, hopefulness, and thankfulness. The end of the passage tells us that they went to the Temple with joy and were continually blessing God.
What a great model for our churches and pastors when there is a change: joy and blessing God! We give thanks for the ministry we have had together, and we bless God even as we pray for the new “team” that will form with the arrival of a new pastor. Can we trust God to provide for us, to give us hope and joy even in the midst of change and anxiety? Maybe that is a model for all of life! It’s certainly food for thought! Praise God!