Summary: Jesus Christ - Yesterday, Today and Forever. What does this mean when we face difficulties, when loss and change happen to us? Our congregation just learned of the resignation of its Senior Pastor. This sermon was written for that Sunday.
"God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" 7Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:5-8 NIV
Loss is not something we celebrate. It is painful. It is unwelcome. It is emotionally jarring and it can leave us in a place of feeling empty; of feeling sad, of feeling restless and disconnected.
The news today of Kerry’s resignation as Senior Pastor of Church at the Mission (CATM) creates for many of us a feeling of loss. Our experience of church at CATM has always included Kerry.
He has helped set the tone of this congregation. He has taught us and cared for us and loved us in a way that only Kerry can.
I have had the privilege of working alongside Kerry for twelve years. I have the utmost respect for Kerry as a man of faith who truly lives his faith, who wrestles with the challenges and implications of serving God with a full heart, who excels in character and Christ-likeness.
He is truly one of my favourite people and has been an example to me of what it means to be a pastor and a father and a friend.
He and I and Jan have come to work like a well-oiled machine, anticipating each other’s moves, reading each other and knowing what’s going on without even needing words a lot of the time.
And I know that most of you have been touched by Kerry’s life. You’ve been impacted by his teaching, you’ve been encouraged and challenged by his counsel.
And yet now we all face this loss together. Of course the mission isn’t losing Kerry. In fact Kerry will have an even greater influence in the life of the mission in his new role as interim Senior Director supervising the director of Community Services, of Genesis Place and also of CATM.
We will all still see a lot of Kerry throughout the week, and I personally take a lot of comfort from that. I told Kerry the other day before he left on vacation that the only thing that is keeping me from being really, really crabby about this whole change is that I’ll still get to see him a lot and to hang out a lot.
Friendship means a lot, and for those of us who know Kerry we can take comfort from the fact that he’ll still be around the mission a lot.
But still...there is a feeling of loss. What are we to do with this feeling? Where do we go in our hearts and minds to begin to process this change? How do we accept this...without becoming disoriented. Or discouraged. Or really, really crabby.
Life is more fragile than we commonly believe. Nowhere has this been brought home to me more than in my own life for the past six months. Many of you know of the death of my brother Craig at the end of January.
Long before Craig died it was evident that he had cancer and that he would die. Nevertheless many of us prayed for Craig...for healing, for full restoration. In the months leading up to his death I spent a good deal of time with him working with him on projects, trying to help around the house as he became less able to do things.
I wasn’t sure how to deal with his dying, so I just tried to do stuff with him and sit with him and pray with him. I felt the need, for his sake to not be sad around him all the time.
He would often tell me how other people who were close to him would bring him down by being despairing and crying on the phone or in person. I didn’t want to bring him down so I tried to keep pretty upbeat but also very present to him.
After he died everyone who knew him well experienced a great deal of sadness. His wife and children, his friends, his colleagues, his birth family. I remember the powerful feeling at times of “What?!? Craig is dead?! No way!!! This absolutely cannot be true. My brother cannot have died”.
This sense of profound disbelief was completely disorienting. Driving home the day after his death and after a day at the funeral home with Craig’s wife, Karen, I had a strong physical, visceral reaction that scared me so much that I had to pull over twice as I drove home from Acton.
Loss is palpable. When you are going through it you cannot cover it up. It forces upon us an unwelcome reevaluation of life. It is not the preferred option. We strain against the loss, sometimes denying it has happened, sometimes, in the early period, bitterly succumbing to or accepting that thing that we have no control over.