Sunday, Sept 2, 2018
Since Pastor Ben announced his transition out of senior pastoral leadership over a year ago, our family has been going through a season of “lasts” in our ministry together. Last Live Nativity, last Christmas Eve Service, last Easter, last baptism, last academy program, last worship & prayer service, last communion… And today, last sermon, last time leading the worship service together as a family at Cedar Road Assembly of God. After 30 years at this church and 117 combined years in ministry, my parents, our pastors, have finally reached their last “last.”
Truthfully, a season of “lasts” is not nearly as exciting as a season of “firsts.” We cheer for the firsts… first words, first steps, first day of school, first kiss, first car, first job, and on and on. But we grieve for the “lasts.” We often forget that the “last” comes before a new “first.” Something has to end in order to start a new beginning. Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” As we walk through this season of “lasts,” we sometimes find ourselves weeping and mourning. And sometimes it seems that God is far away, that He has forgotten us. But when we see that the ending is just a prelude to the exciting new beginning God has for us, we find joy and laughter once again. And we realize that our times are truly in God’s hands and we can trust that His ways are perfect.
As we honor Pastors Ben and Roberta on their last day of Sunday ministry at Cedar Road, it’s OK to grieve the ending. But let us also rejoice that God has a new beginning, a new season for them and for this church. I am so thankful that they can truly say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Today, we honor them for fighting the good fight, for finishing the race, for keeping the faith and not giving up. We honor them for their faithfulness to God and the ministry He called them to. We honor them for their faithfulness to shepherd our church and minister to those in need. We honor them for the Godly example they have set for us and the strong foundation they have built for the future of this church. We honor them for their love for people and their heart to serve. We honor them and thank them for their leadership and their friendship, for being there when we needed them, for putting others before themselves, for the sacrifices they have made to love, protect and build our church, for their desire to give to our community and for the way they have opened their hearts and welcomed all who have come. We thank them for being obedient to God and following his leading as they led us. We thank them for faithfully praying for us and believing for miracles in our lives. We thank them for making room for the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit among us. We thank them for their vision of a diverse congregation of people from all ethnicities and walks of life worshiping together as one. We thank them for pursuing that vision and bringing it to reality as they worked to build the beautifully diverse congregation we have today.
Pastors Ben and Roberta, may God bless you abundantly in this new season beyond your wildest dreams. May he reward you greatly for your faithfulness to serve and give sacrificially. May he grant you new vision to see this transition as a bright new beginning. May he replace your mourning with dancing and your grieving with laughter. May he renew your strength and fill you with new joy and hope for the future. Always know that you are loved, you are honored and your legacy will live on in those of us who remain. We will never forget all that you both have done to bless us, bless this church, bless this community and bless many from around the world.