Summary: Final in the series "Patterns for Prayer." Looks at Pauls farewell with the Ephesian elders as a pattern for praying together as we say goodbye.
Prayer & Parting
Text: Acts 20: 22-38
This sermon was scheduled before I knew with certainty when or even if I would be leaving Heidelberg.
So perhaps it is providential that here just about exactly one month before my departure as we conclude this series of sermons on prayer that we examine this pattern for prayer when parting.
Now the text doesn’t tell us exactly what or how they prayed, only that they kneeled and prayed and shared a tearful good-bye. But as we look at what Paul had to say to these elders of the church that he had helped to establish at Ephesus, we can see the kind of relationship they shared and get some insight into how they probably prayed--or at least into the things that were on their minds as they prayed--the things their prayer was grounded in.
So as you and I face a time of parting--indeed as we all in the military community face many such times of saying goodbye, I think that we can find here a pattern for prayer as we say goodbye.
Transition: .The first thing that I note as they approach this time of prayer together is that Paul spends a fair amount of time looking back at a...
Past filled with loyalty
v. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.
In fact Paul goes into great detail to explain that he has done right by these dear ones, that he has fully shouldered the load and faithfully executed the mission that the Lord has given to them. Specifically that he has been diligent in preaching the whole message of the Gospel.
Though I presume to claim nothing close to perfection in my time at PHV chapel I do believe I can say with confidence that I have not failed to preach consistently and without apology the good news about Jesus--That God became a man and lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for the sins of all mankind, that he offers salvation as a free gift to all those who surrender their lives to him and trust not in their own good works but in the sacrifice of Jesus to save them from sin. And that those who trust in him are empowered by the Holy spirit to live a new life which serves as external evidence of an internal transformation. That message has been proclaimed here. And I do believe that I can say to all of you who frequent this place, that if you do not go to heaven it is not because I have failed to tell you how.
But I don’t see this loyalty as a one-way street. Though Paul doesn’t make specific mention of their loyalty to him, I think that it is plainly seen in how much he cares for them and in how difficult their time of goodbye was.
So too in this chapel I can say that your loyalty to me as your shepherd has been unwavering and humbling. In particular I note the support that I have consistently received by the senior chaplains in this community who have never questioned but openly supported my leadership in this congregation. The leaders of ministries and all of the members of this congregation have gone out of their way to show love and support to me and me family and have faithfully supported us in prayer.
Prayer for one another at a time of farewell is founded in a loving and loyal relationship leading up to that time of parting. Those of you in home fellowship groups have found this to be true, as you have developed relationship with one another, good-byes become more difficult, but the prayer support of that group of fellowship becomes ever more precious and powerful as you share your lives.
Prayer when parting is founded in a Past filled with Loyalty.
Next I think we can see some of what Paul and the elders prayed about as he reminds them of a...
Present filled with responsibility
v. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
God has been good to us in the past, he has graced us with wonderful people and relationships, but a time of goodbye is not a time to lose focus upon ministry. If anything the transition makes it doubly important for each to insure they are fulfilling their responsibility to the community of faith.
Though Paul is addressing those with leadership responsibilities, I think we can rightly apply it more broadly, for the Scripture plainly teaches that EACH of us who has trusted Jesus for salvation has a gift and a calling from God and a responsibility to serve our brothers and sisters fulfilling that God given tasking.