Chapters 14-17 of the Gospel of John are known as the Farewell Discourse given by Jesus to eleven of his disciples immediately after the conclusion of the Last Supper in Jerusalem, the night before his crucifixion.
The discourse has several distinctive parts. First, Jesus tells the disciples that he will be going away to the Father, that he will send the Holy Spirit to guide them. Jesus bestows peace on the disciples and commands them to love one another. The expression of the unity of love between Jesus and his Father, in the Spirit, as it applies to his disciples in the love of Christ, is a key theme, encapsulated in the New Commandment: “love one another as I have loved you”.
The next section contains the imagery of The Vine which positions Jesus as the vine (the source of life for the world) and the disciples as the branches, connected to the source for sustenance in following. Jesus then warns the disciples of upcoming persecutions: “If the world hates you, remember that they hated me before you”. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
In the final part of the discourse (John 17:1-26) Jesus prays for his followers and the coming Church. One of the primary purposes of the prayer is a petition to the Father that his followers “may all be one as we are one” and that “the love with which you love me may be in them, and I in them.”
Preparing to leave is hard. As it is now time for me to say Farewell to the congregation of Holy Cross, I find myself wanting the same things for you that Jesus was praying about for his disciples. That of primary focus for you will always be your love for one another through Christ who has made us his children. That you find a place of unity together in the midst of your wonderful diversity of gifts. As we grow in our faith journeys and branch out to different places within the body of Christ, I trust that each of us will continue to be fed and strengthened through a vital, living, active, connection to the vine through which we are nourished and sustained for the growth to come that we may bring glory to the vinegrower. I pray that the Spirit guides us to be rooted in a life of prayer, that it be as natural and integral to our living as each breath we take and that as we face the challenges and persecutions of this life that we can draw strength from one another and from our Heavenly Father.
It has been a wonderful 3 months to be with you. We had fun together with children’s time in the service, a Disney Bible study, motorcycle and backpack blessings, an anniversary celebration for Jeremy and a church picnic. I was honored to share in some faith building moments, baptisms and first communion, weekly Bible study, homebound Communion visits, helping with the clothing closet at the Middle School, and many other activities. Thank you for welcoming me into your sanctuary for worship and the opportunity to share my gifts. Thank you for welcoming me to the table at council meetings and staff meetings and allowing me to share in your wonderful work alongside such saints of God. Thank you for inviting me into your homes and your lives as you entrusted me with your stories and gave me the opportunity to pray with you and for you as I came to know and love you. I will miss you very much and I give thanks to God for you and the time we have shared.
Leaving is made easier with the knowledge that I am returning you back into the capable and faithful hands of Pastor Jones, who I know loves you and loves God as he serves in his call to this place. I am a better pastor and person for my time here. Thank you for blessing me.
God love you and so do I,
Your sister in Christ,