Final Sunday Sermon before my Retirement
I ran across an old story about a college football coach who’d gone undefeated all season. At dinner one night, the college president who was praising him up one side and down the other for having the best season the college had ever had. The president told the coach he was the best friend that he had on campus.
Impressed, the coach asked, “Mr. President, would you be this friendly and still be my friend if we had lost all eleven of our games this season instead of winning them all?”
The president said, “Of course we’d still friends, BUT I SURE WOULD MISS YOU AROUND HERE.” (1)
Today we take an active part in the both the heritage and ministry of the United Methodist Church. Today we participate in the itinerant system. As you know, this is my last sermon here as your pastor. The two hardest sermons for a preacher are the first and last; the first because the people don’t know him or her yet and the last, well, because they do.
For some, the tendency is to cram a million sermons into one and try to say all those things which didn’t get said. I’m not going to do that. Instead, I want to share the very same thoughts I shared with you, the first time I stood here. That first Sunday, I talked about Dreams.
I. DREAM DREAMS:
The prophet Joel reminds us, that one of the powers of the Holy Spirit is to fill us with the ability to dream dreams. Dreams both for and of the future. And when those dreams are inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they can come true. One of my favorite commercials for all the Super Bowl Sunday Commercials is this one: WATCH
While I don’t endorse the product, I do believe in the twofold message it presents. First: dream and work toward your dreams. Second, there are others who will help you fulfill your dreams.
That’s what the Church is all about. But the Church needs dreams as well. The Church needs dreams to use as goals for ministry. We’ve dreamed some of those dreams together and we’ve enabled a lot of wonderful things to happen. We’ve helped send two of our youth on international mission trips and encouraged them as they pursue full time ministry. We’ve had one choir director, Owen McKnight, who answered the call to preach and is now doing his internship through Perkins School of Theology at the largest church in the Central Texas Annual Conference. And we’ve encouraged and watched another choir director as she finished seminary and is now on staff at that same church, White’s Chapel.
Then of course, we remodeled the Youth Room. We helped one of our Missionaries purchase a new plane for Wings of Morning ministry. We’ve purchased countless bed nets to fight malaria. We’ve purchased solar powered lights and school books for children in villages which don’t have electricity. We’ve purchased water buckets which will filter up to a million gallons of water and make it safe to drink. We’ve helped dig a well in Nigeria, so Yaukani Village had fresh water. Now, we’re supporting Pastor Luka’s salary. If we dream it, we can do it.
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will continue to be poured out upon this Church and that you might continue to dream dreams. That’s my dream. I pray that the Spirit of Peace; the Spirit of Forgiveness and Reconciliation and a Vision for the Future will be yours and guide both you and your new pastor, Jon.
Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV)
 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
II. SPIRIT OF PEACE:
After the resurrection the disciples were all gathered together in the Upper Room. The doors and the windows were all closed and locked and they were all hiding in fear for their own lives. John says Jesus appeared, stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” He spoke those words to calm their fears and clear up their confusion about his death and resurrection.
The peace which Christ gave to the Disciples can be yours. It comes through walking with Christ, through knowing him personally as your Savior and through loving him completely.
I dream that this peace will continually be yours. But it’s not always easy to maintain. It’s always there for the taking; it’s always ever-present; but it’s not always easy for us to let go of the problems and issues that fill us with anxiety, tension, stress and all those other things that lead to sleepless nights.
But just as Christ brought peace to the Disciples, Christ can bring peace to our lives. It means letting go and trusting God and trusting in God’s Grace. It means turning our problems over to God. And when we do, then we come to know the peace that passes all understanding. I pray that Peace, Christ’s Peace, will be yours.
That inner peace will empower you for the work of the Church.
III. SPIRIT OF FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION:
In receiving the Holy Spirit, I also dream that the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation will be yours. That’s the first work of the Church. That’s the spirit and purpose of the Church. It’s the very essence of the Christian message. Christ’s word’s from the cross, “Father forgive them,” echo down through the ages as the central message of all our messages.
Whenever I perform a wedding, I always include a short homily about the difference between a regular marriage and a Christian marriage. In that homily, I talk about what someone said are the 12 most important words in any relationship. They are packaged in four, three word phrases.
The first one is “I love you”
The second is “Maybe you’re right.”
The third is “I am sorry.”
And the last is the most important of all, because without it, all relationships fail, “I forgive you.”
I believe those three words are the most powerful words in the world. “I forgive you.” Forgiveness frees the forgiven but it also frees the one who forgives. That spirit of forgiveness is the same spirit of forgiveness which the Church must have if it is to be true to Christ, true to the Great Commission and true to the Spirit.
The business of the Church isn’t judgment and condemnation. The business of the Church is redemption through forgiveness and reconciliation. In John 3:16-17 (NRSV) We read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
The business of the Church is offering the Good News of forgiveness, through Jesus Christ in abundance, because we have been forgiven. In the wake of the shootings in SC and the recent Supreme Court decisions we have to become living examples of both forgiveness and reconciliation.
Through the grace and power of God’s Holy Spirit, we’re not called to judge or condemn. We’re called to seek reconciliation just as we have been reconciled to God. We’re called to forgive with the same spirit in which we were forgiven. We’re called to love unconditionally because that’s how God loves us. Let the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation be your dream. Make it a reality. Dream it, proclaim it, live it.
IV. VISION OF THE FUTURE:
A. And finally, every Church needs a vision. A vision gives power for the present. If there is no hope or vision for the future, then there is no power for the present. With Vision the Church can remember and fulfill its mission. Bishop Lowry shared this clip with us during the clergy session of Annual Conference. WATCH
That’s the Vision the prophet Joel was talking about. That’s the kind of Vision every Church and every Christian needs. But it means doing the hard work of living like Jesus taught. It means dreaming big dreams ; God sized dreams. God sized visions. Dreams and visions so big that only God can make them happen. And then surrendering yourselves to God as servants, as instruments of change in order to make those dreams and visions a reality in the world today. Continue to dream dreams of what this Church can be and will be. Then work toward those dreams. But also make sure those dreams are in sync with Christ’s Mission for the Church.
B. Maybe you heard about the little boy whose father was a banker. They were on their way home from Church one day when the little boy said, “Dad? When I grow up I want to be a teller.” Dad was pleased and said, “That’s great; maybe you can work at the same bank with me.”
But the little boy got irritated and said, “No, I don’t want to work at the bank! I don’t want to be that kind of teller. I want to be the kind of teller that tells people about Jesus.”
Every Christian needs to be like that little boy. Like the Disciples, we’ve all been called to follow Jesus. We’ve all been called to share God’s Good News. We’ve all been called to be tellers. And the great news is that you can do it in both word and deed. Simply by living as Jesus taught.
At the last supper Jesus said to the Disciples, “A little while, and you will see me no more.”
I know a little bit how Jesus must have felt. In three short days I will officially be retired. But I know that we’ll run into each other again. You have been a big part of our lives. I pray that you will dream dreams; so that the spirit of peace; the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation; and your vision for the future might empower you to be Tellers so that others will come to know the love, forgiveness and reconciliation you’ve experienced.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. From PALMS PROJECT A NEW POWER-FILLED PERSON, a sermon by Rev. Eric Ritz