Through this window, I have watched the seasons change around our church building over the course of the past year. Through this window, I have watched the colors of fall give way to the bitter cold of winter. Through this window, I saw tangible signs of the resurrection in the fragrance of spring, which gave way to sunshine and summer heat.
It has been interesting living in such close proximity to the church. Although my life (and indeed, all of our lives) always play out in the context of the cross of Jesus Christ, to live with the cross on top of our church building as a literal backdrop has served as a real reminder of God’s continual presence in my life and in our shared life together. Now the time has come to say goodbye and move on to a different phase of life in a different place – it hardly seems possible that a year has come and gone.
And what a year it has been. From my first days here last August, as you welcomed me with open arms and showed me firsthand your commitment to giving everyone A Place at the Table, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church quickly felt like home. I fell easily into a routine of pastoral care, worship, and confirmation activities, learning more about my own call to ministry with each passing day.
Before I knew it, Advent was upon us and despite a very difficult December, filled with grief and mourning in our community, we were reminded each week that All Earth is Hopeful for the Savior was coming to dwell among us. It was unseasonably warm at Christmas as we celebrated the wonder and mystery of the Word made flesh, reminded by choirs, bells, and brass that Hope is Born and has made his dwelling place among us. January brought the bitter cold of winter back with full force but we were warmed by our community and the Hope Revealed in our lives.
In no time at all, Lent was upon us and we were again reminded of our own mortality and called to journey with the Lord to the cross, where we discovered anew that we are, indeed, Beloved children of God. In a turn of events that nobody could predict, our plans for the Lenten journey were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and drastic life changes that drove fear and darkness into our lives. In the midst of the darkness, however, Easter morning dawned and we proclaimed (virtually) the steadfast promise of the resurrection: that we are forever Alive! in the risen life that we share with Jesus Christ.
Now, the summer heat has returned and, even though it feels very much the same as when I arrived last August, the world is a vastly different place and the future feels more uncertain than ever. But, dear friends in Christ, it is times like these when we are called to remember (and to proclaim) that, while the future remains uncertain, we know with certainty who holds the future. And so, now more than ever, we gather to hear the Gospel: What Grace Looks Like and remember the deep love that God has shown and continues to show to God’s people.
Many people have told me how sorry they are that the pandemic happened during my internship and lamented the fact that we didn’t get to finish the year the way we were supposed to. While I am, of course, deeply saddened to depart without being able to gather together in person one more time, I can say with total certainty that, if the pandemic had to happen, I am glad it happened while I was a part of such a wonderful, supportive, and engaged community of faith. Your witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ has remained steadfast despite the fact that everything else in our world has changed.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, it has been the privilege of my life to serve as your Pastoral Intern. You have supported me, loved me, and given me space to learn and grow. You have impacted my life in more ways than I can even begin to describe. Paul’s letter to the Philippians has been on my mind over the past several weeks as I reflected on the year that was. It is my hope and prayer that they will continue to guide your ministry in the years to come so that you might continue to share God’s love in Ankeny and beyond:
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. - Philippians 1:3-6
As our paths diverge and we venture into separate unknowns, always remember that because of shared faith in the Risen One, our lives are grounded in the same firm foundation. Like Paul, I am confident that our paths will cross again someday because God will certainly bring to completion the good work that began among us this year.
With all my love and affection, and for one final time,