It's the last week for me. I will preach for the last time for a precious group of people who have loved my family and me for 22 years. I wasn't forced out and I'm not leaving because I am mad at someone. God has called me to a new place and new opportunities. God is calling this church family that I know so well to begin a journey with someone new ... they just haven't discovered that person yet.

It's scary and emotional for all of us. But the good-byes have all been said and we are not going to have a maudlin farewell and an overly teary last Sunday together. The good-bye party happened several weeks ago. We are going to focus on welcoming visitors and meeting folks we don't know on this last Sunday we're together.

Why leave?
Why end this way?
Why leave the familiar?
Why go to another place?
Why drag my family to a new situation?

So often we settle down into what we think are safe places. We think they are safe because we know them and have become comfortable with them. They feel safe. But, for many of us, little by little, we grow deaf to the leading and nudging of God. We come close to giving up listening for the call of God for the security of what is familiar.

God, however, has repeatedly challenged his people with new things, new places, and new opportunities. Sometimes, in fact oftentimes, God's "new things" come as quite a surprise at the most unexpected of times. For the new things to happen, we must give up our grip on what is familiar. We must go through the grief of letting go of what we have embraced and taking the hand of God on a journey into the unknown.

So this week, these people that we love and with whom we have been privileged to share irreplaceable moments of grace, will say good-bye to us. We will then begin our new journeys ... separately. We will pray for them and they will pray for us. We will be very interested in what God is doing with them. We will remain connected in many ways.

But inescapably, this will be a week of last things. My books are packed and mostly gone. My office will no longer be “my” office. The familiar faces of those who have blessed me and enabled my ministry will not be the faces I see each day. I will step up to the podium and preach for the last time as this church's preacher. I will do my last wedding as their preacher. Donna, Megan, and I will drive away Sunday afternoon and our world, our lives, and our futures will change.

For the new things to happen, we must give up our grip on what is familiar.
Last things ... last times ... last glances ...

However, there is one reality that won't be last. Instead, this reality will be lasting. These will be my people and we will be their friends — forever. We believe the partings that we have in this life are only temporary. The changes we make in location are all preparatory for the ultimate change ... when we are changed and made ready for an unending life of joy in the presence of God who will welcome us home.

I'm leaving a ministry, a building, a period in my life, but I will never ever completely leave these people nor will they leave me. We're bound by something deeper than place, time, and familiarity. We're family. We're bound by the grace of God, the love of our Savior, and the Holy Spirit who connects us together ... forever. These are not last things, but lasting ones.

“These three abide: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Thanks, dear friends, for sharing these three with us in abundance.