“These words are trustworthy and true.” ~ Revelation 22:6
(This was originally published in the January 2015 edition of Faith Lutheran’s newsletter)
On Sunday, 27 December Bob Dahlen, my old pastor up north, preached his last sermon in the Goodridge Lutheran Parish. The three-point parish held a joint service that day at Ekelund Lutheran Church (my home congregation) and I’ve been told that around 300 people attended. It was a nice send off for a man who’s spent nearly 30 years serving the same parish. He baptized 3 of my 5 siblings, buried two of my grandparents, my great grandma, and four of my great aunts and uncles, officiated at the weddings of two of my siblings and few of my cousins, and taught me how to preach the gospel. After all of this and so many years, it’s hard to imagine my home parish being served by another preacher.
The church is a place where new relationships are formed, old friendships are strengthened, and families are bonded more tightly. It’s also a place where odd sorts of relationships develop between congregations and pastors. Churches are stabilizing places in our livers. At the same time, there’s something inherently unstable in our relationships—that is, all of them change. This is especially true with pastors. Pastors come in as outsiders to a community and it often takes a while to develop familiarity and trust, congregations are complex and are home to assorted personalities, and usually, by the time a pastor and congregation have gotten to know one another, like or dislike one another, trust each other or not, the pastor moves on and someone new steps in. Bob’s been around longer than most, and has been well-loved in Goodridge, but he’s had his share of conflicts there, too, and there are some who are more excited than others to see a new face on Sunday mornings. This is fairly typical, and you can probably think back on former pastors who you’ve liked, disliked, trusted or not (you might even have a few opinions about this pastor!). Again, these relationships are a little odd, and no matter what, they change.
It’ll be strange to visit my parent’s place on vacation, go to church and hear another voice from the pulpit. What if the new preacher isn’t any good? What if they don’t get along with my parents? What if they’re great, but they stick around for 3 years and then head for greener pastures? You’ve probably asked some of these same questions as pastors have come and gone in this place. Still, even as things change up in Goodridge, I’m reminded that the God who is always and ever the same, is also the Lord of change—the one who makes all things new. No matter whose lips are flapping in the pulpit, it will be God’s Word, Jesus Christ himself, that is preached, for his Word is trustworthy and true.
As we move into a new year here in southern Isanti County, please remember this: things will change for good or ill—jobs will be found and lost, marriages will be formed and broken, new faces will enter and leave our families—but fear not when such changes come to pass, for Jesus Christ is Lord and will carry and save through all the upheavals of 2016. Happy New Year and God be with you all!