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A Heartfelt Farewell

"When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship."   Acts 20:36-37

I am not sure whether or not those who have read these Pastor’s Corners over the last eight years will weep or grieve at my leaving as pastor of First Baptist Church of Milburn.  However there is something in a Heartfelt Farewell worthy of note. 

Words of farewell are sometimes difficult, memorable, poignant. Note these examples from history: Napolean (1814): “Adieu my friends. Would I could press you all to my heart.” Winston Churchill (1955): “The day may dawn when fair play, love for one’s fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.” Nelson Mandela (1999): “Though I shall not be seen as much as I have been, I shall be amongst you and with you as we enter the African century; working together to make a reality of our hopes for a better world.”

Saying goodbye is not easy. We say goodbye to loved ones, colleagues, friends, family, and sometimes even nations. Seasoned with perspective and sadness, such words carry a mixture of grief, hope, sadness, love, and wisdom. Words of farewell remind us that whatever we do in life, whether great or small, is for but a season.

The apostle Paul spent only two years in the city of Ephesus, planting a church and solidifying a young congregation of believers. Two years later, he called the leaders of the church together and delivered his farewell speech. In Acts 20:17–38, he looks back on his relatively short time spent among the Ephesian elders. His heartfelt words recount his time among them—an investment marked by humility, service, gospel-centeredness, hard work, preaching, and teaching. His final words before he set off on the ship, simply echoed Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (vs. 35). Though Paul’s work among the Ephesians was finished, God had plenty more in store for Paul. In the next ten years, he would go on to write six more of his epistles, travel, preach, and teach across the Mediterranean world, until his eventual house arrest and martyrdom in Rome.

What’s in a goodbye? Among other things, a reminder that our place in God’s plan includes seasons, some long and others short. But even the shorter seasons, as in the example of Paul in Ephesus, God uses for his purposes.

So, a Heartfelt Farewell to all of you.  God is not done with either of us yet.  Let us continue to follow Him where ever He leads.  I will see you later on down the road toward Heaven.

Bro. Richard K. Corn

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