2nd Corinthians 13: 11
Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
(Background: The picture of the sign in front of The Lutheran Church of the Resurrection was sent to me earlier this week. The Church is in the Rosewood neighborhood, not far from my house. I don’t know anyone affiliated with the church, and don’t know the circumstances of how or why they are leaving.)
Even though I don’t know anyone who attends this Church, a feel a little sadness at reading the words on their sign out front. I think anyone who loves the whole church feels the same.
I think about the good people of Resurrection Church and their 70 years of ministry; those who have gone on to their heavenly reward and those who are here now. I think about all the Sunday services, the meals, the fellowship, the lessons taught, the children baptized and nurtured. I think about their helping those in the community and providing a witness to God in good times and in times of challenge.
Those of us who love the Church – that is, the whole Church, God’s Church – can also feel happiness that as they say goodbye, they leave their love and blessings. Their final message is a blessing to us all.
As we consider the farewell of this church, we are reminded of a number of spiritual truths. One is that anything in the human realm of existence has a finite life span. We are not promised forever in this life, nor are we promised good health and prosperity for all the days that we are here on this earth. The things about us that are mostly human, our bodies and our minds, grow old and lose their vitality. At the same time, we know that God is infinite, and that the things of God do last forever. That part of ourselves that is of God – the soul – is infinite and will live on beyond this life.
We are also reminded that how we live in the here and now creates the narrative by which we will be remembered when we are gone. In other words, all of us write our own ‘obituaries’ each day. Acts of love, kindness, and service, and acts by which we bear witness to the truth of God – these become the record of life that we ourselves create, and the story by which we will be remembered. We receive the blessings of God through others and we pass them on.
The dictionary definition of ‘Benediction’ is “the utterance of a blessing, especially at the end of a service.” And so as the Resurrection Church moves on, their Benediction is that they leave their love and blessings with their neighborhood.
And we know that what is true of churches is also true of people - that is that where love and blessings remain, those that gave them live on. The love and blessings that we experience are passed on to us from them, and we pass them on to others.
A hymn that speaks to this is “Pass It On.” The lyrics say:
It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love once you’ve experienced it; you spread his love to everyone; you want to pass it on.
I wish for you, my friend, this happiness that I’ve found; you can depend on him, it matters not where you’re bound. I’ll shout it from the mountain-top; I want my world to know, the Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.
May we live today in the knowledge that we are both finite and infinite beings. May we inherit with gratitude the love and blessings we have received, and pass them on to those who we meet each day. Thanks be to God. Amen.