Homily for the Last Sunday after Pentecost – Nov. 21 & 22

The Feast of Christ the King…Series B
The Church of the Good Shepherd (November 21st, 2015)

Text: John 18:33-37
Title: The Last Words of Fr. Dave+!
Text: Acts 20:32.

On November 8th, 1942, Allied forces under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower launched a bold and dangerous assault on German forces in North Africa. The assault was given the code name OPERATION TORCH. The day after the assault began (on November 9th) Sir Winston Churchill (who was serving as the Prime Minister of Great Britain) was interviewed by a young journalist for the London Times. The journalist asked Churchill to assess the impact of the Allied invasion on the effort to defeat Hitler and Nazi Germany. Churchill paused to ponder the journalist’s question and then, as only Churchill could he replied, “Well…this is certainly not the END…this is not even the BEGINNING of the END….it is only the END OF THE BEGINNING”. This is not the END…it isn’t even the beginning of the END…this is only the END of the BEGINNING!

This weekend, we join Christians around the world in celebrating the great feast of Christ the King, and, in our liturgies, we remember that our crucified and risen Christ is sovereign KING and that one day he will establish his eternal and glorious Kingdom of justice, peace and love in this bruised and broken world of of ours. The feast of Christ the King also marks the end of the church year. But, when you think about it, this isn’t really the end, because next weekend we celebrate the first Sunday in ADVENT…the beginning of a brand new year in the liturgical calendar. So, one liturgical year flows seamlessly into another, and the END is not really the END…it is only the end of a wonderful new beginning!

This weekend also marks the end of something else…not just the liturgical year, but the end of my ministry as your Interim Rector…your “Temporary Shepherd”. I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe an entire year has passed since I preached my first homily on Sat. Nov. 8th, 2014…but it’s true! And all I can say is that these twelve months have been among the richest and most satisfying of my nearly 30 years of ordained ministry. Tonight my heart is filled and overflowing with gratitude for each of you and for the time we have been together and I will never forget you!

But, when you think about it, tonight is not really the END, because next week you will welcome your new Rector…your “Permanent Shepherd”, Mth. Susan Osborne-Mott, and working together in a spirit of partnership, you will create the next chapter in the long and distinguished history of the remarkable parish. And, on December 21st, I will begin my ministry as the 23rd Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Mount Holly. So, just like one liturgical year flows seamlessly into another, so what may appear to be an end for us is actually an exciting and challenging new beginning filled with promise and with hope. And friends that is the way it is for us who follow in the footsteps of the Carpenter from Nazareth! The end is not the end…not permanently…the END is only the end of a new beginning!

According to my calculations this is the 107th homily that I have preached here at GSEC since arriving on the scene last November 3rd (The Feast of All Souls was my first service, but Dcn. Carl Dunn preached the homily and I listened). I want to conclude this final homily by sharing a verse from the Acts of the Apostles. In verse 32 of the 20th chapter of Acts, we hear a portion of the Apostle Paul’s farewell address to the Elders of the Christian community at Ephesus.

I chose this text to complete my preaching ministry here at Good Shepherd because Paul says to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus exactly what I want to say to you this morning:

And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.

Today is a sad and a difficult day for me (and for Susan). It is more difficult to leave this church and all of you than I ever imagined it would be. .But, like the Apostle Paul, I commend each of you “to God and the message of His grace”. It is the unique role (and the sacred responsibility) of the priest to commend the people to God and God to the people…to commend the sheep to the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd to the Sheep! So, in spite of the sadness, there is real joy because I know that the same God who has been with us this past year will continue to be with his church and with all of you as you welcome Mth. Susan and together you continue your mission and ministry in this community. And I know that the message of his Grace, which has been proclaimed this past year will continue to be proclaimed and God will continue to use that word of proclamation to transform your hearts and to build you up and encourage you in the journey of Christian discipleship..

And so, with a touch of sadness mingled with a profound sense of joy and peace and gratitude, and with the courage, confidence and conviction of faith, we can affirm the great truth of the Gospel of Grace:

For the followers of the Carpenter from Nazareth…the Good Shepherd…Christ the King, No END is permanent. And what we end today is certainly not the END…it is not even the beginning of the END…it is only the END of a wondrous, grace-filled and exciting NEW BEGINNING!
God bless you…
Amen…

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