Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matt. 28: 16-20
As I prepare this, the last newsletter message as Pastor, I have been wondering what to write. What last words of encouragement can I leave with you? I turned to the last interactions Jesus had with the disciples before he returned to heaven. Each of the four Gospels recounts a slightly different account of this parting, but there are some common elements.
Mixed emotions are evident in all Gospel accounts of Jesus’ departure and the uncertainty of the disciple’s future. The disciples and Jesus express doubt, anger, uncertainty, fear, as well as hope and faith. The concern they have is evident in the Gospel accounts. For who among us knows what tomorrow holds? There is uncertainty, doubt and fear within each of us.
I can resonate with the under-current of emotions expressed by the disciples in these Biblical records, since I have felt and witnessed them all. And, I know many of you have felt them also.
Since announcing my retirement months ago, it has been a roller coaster of emotions. Sadness at leaving you after all these many years; Anxiety and uncertainty as Sally and I have had to search for and find a new home. I confess feeling frustration or even regret when I think of plans unfulfilled or left incomplete. So many emotions as we prepare to say good-bye; the joy and excitement at the prospect of spending time with Kate’s family, especially Beatrice and Emily.
So, do not fear or despair! The words of the Gospels spoken by the Lord to the disciples are also spoken to us. We are commissioned, I am, you are, Debbie is commissioned. All of us are commissioned to go out and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in a world that needs the love and grace of God. We go into the new year with the strong and sure promise that the Lord will be with us as we do this… “day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
Yes, we will experience all the mixed emotions of our parting, but we will experience the joy and excitement of doing God’s new work in this church, in our personal lives, well into the 151st year and beyond.
I love you! God bless you all!
Rev. Donald M. Pitches
Commissioned Lay Pastor's Message
Dear Friends and Family;
Recently I attended a baby shower and a christening party. Of course, as you anticipate the birth of a baby and ooh and aah at the new little one, you come to realize many things. First, how precious and tiny the new little angel appears. Next, you think of all the loving care that this new life needs. You plan for warmth and shelter for the new baby, and wonder what the future holds for this new, oh so precious life. Then you remember where this new life came from, and you know that God has sent this new life to parents who will love and take gentle care of this new, precious tiny one.
As for me, it starts me thinking of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We know that he was sent from heaven by God to a young, gentle mother. She certainly would take loving care of him. Surely, he was precious and tiny, even more precious than the world would know at this point. Mary and Joseph wondered too, what the future would hold for this new young innocent life. We, looking back, surely know what the future would hold. Perhaps that’s what we should focus on as we once again remember His birth. Let us remember that Jesus came to earth with a mission to fulfill, a mission to change the world. Humanity would be saved by His body and His blood. So at Christmas, let us remember that Jesus was sent by His loving Father to save you and me from our sins. He was sent because God so loved the world!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
At Christmas, there are many people who are not having a time of peace and joy. Even at this blessed season, yet life goes on with its trials and tribulations. There is still suffering and sorrow. Many call this time Blue Christmas. In our church this year, we are experiencing a Blue Christmas. For even as we count off the weeks of Advent leading to the birth of our Savior, we know that we are getting even closer to the end of the year when our beloved Pastor heads out to a new life. After all, Retired Pastors make the Best Grandpas! So Christmas this year comes with a time of letting go and saying goodbye! We remember fondly the years that have gone by, thinking of the times of worship, sharing meals together, participating in meetings and just having a wonderful time talking and laughing with Pastor. The years seem to have passed by so quickly, but they have left us with so many happy memories. Of course, we all shared with Pastor our sorrows as well, knowing that he was always there for us. He has certainly been a blessing to each one of us. It will be difficult to say goodbye, but yet we have hope for the future.
“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope.” Lamentations 3: 22-24
Though we are sad to say goodbye, yet we know that God is holding us all close to His heart. God still loves us all. We are His people, and we know that His love is constant and eternal. Each and every one of us will move forward as the body of Christ with the living hope of our Lord and Savior. It is the time to strengthen our faith and to grow our Church with love and compassion for all. Though things will not be the same without Pastor, yet we will continue in worship, in mission, in prayer and bible study, to praise our God as the body of Christ here in Carlstadt. As long as we move forward in love, with hope, and compassion for all, we will not just survive, but will thrive. We are a special congregation, filled with so many wonderful people, blessed with unity and compassion. It is in that unity that we will continue. We have been here for 150 years, and that is a wonderful legacy. Let us move forward with the love of God in our hearts, and continue to worship our God in spirit and truth. I leave you with this scripture, expressing my love for all of you!
“I thank my God for you every time I think of you: and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy because of the way in which you helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now.” Philippians 1: 3-5
Grace and peace,
Commissioned Lay Pastor