A Letter to the Congregation from Rev. Steve Cothran
Maybe it will turn out just like they planned. But maybe it will be quite different. Either way, we trust in the assurance that no matter what direction they might be blown by the Wind of the Spirit, God has their best interest at heart, just as Jeremiah 29:11 says:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
And so our seniors graduate and head off into the unknown. They are taking the same leap of faith that Abraham, our spiritual father, took as scripture tells us:
“Abraham, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Heb. 11: 8)
And Abraham’s family must’ve thought that he was crazy. What do you mean you don’t know where you’re going? Why don’t you wait until it becomes more clear? What is going to happen to you? And I’m sure Abraham and Sarah tried to explain it…but it’s almost always impossible to explain. Unless, of course, you’ve been there. Unless you’ve heard that gentle whisper…It’s time…
Then you understand that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
This is the step of faith that Nancy and I take today. For almost 17 years, as part of this wonderful family of faith, God has blessed us beyond measure. We have seen youth grow up and get married and begin families of their own. We have seen our own children nurtured by your goodness and grace. You have invited us into your joys and your heartaches, and you have been part of ours as well. You have wept with us and rejoiced with us. And the youth have heard us say for the past 17 years, “Listen for God’s voice, and when God calls, you’ve got to go!”
And now it’s time to practice what we’ve preached. Ironic, don’t you think? Because now we find ourselves with the clear sense that our ministry at First Baptist has come to an end. But unlike typical Baptist tradition where we might leave to begin ministry elsewhere, God hasn’t revealed that yet, and so we must be willing to step out in faith-and I am grateful to Alan and the Personnel Committee for their gracious support as we prepare for the unknown journey ahead.
Well, why don’t you stay until you have somewhere to go?
Listen, I made a pledge to myself long ago that if I ever got too comfortable and started feeling complacent about ministry then I would do something about it because that is definitely not how God calls us to live.
And so our last Sunday at First Baptist will be, August 27. And then we will continue to wait on the Lord because I genuinely believe that this is an opportunity for Nancy and me to live out our shared calling. Is this scary? Absolutely! But why shouldn’t it be? When did following the Christ who bids us to “Come and die” turn into a life of comfort and certainty?
And I would remind those of you-youth and parents-who are reeling and wondering “what will we do now?” remember that this same question was echoing years ago when Vern Peterson and Ben Vogler resigned. And yet here we are today, stronger and more vital than ever.
Will it be hard? Probably. Will it be different? Yes. Will there be uncertainty? Absolutely! But will God leave us? Never. And will it be better…even though we can’t imagine it right now? Yes! Because God’s future is always more promising than our present.
Right now your heads are swimming with questions like: “What’s going to happen?” and “Will things ever be the same?” No. No they won’t be the same. But they will be better…they will be better because God always takes our best and makes it better.
I never thought Julian of Norwich’s most famous quote made sense to me, until I woke up this week with those words echoing in my heart:
“All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”
So remember that when God’s children were heading into a future where they were scared and uncertain, God spoke to them through Joshua and said:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
And thanks be to God, it will be so. Amen.