Much has been made of the final words of people, particularly famous people. John Adams, for example, said, “Thomas Jefferson still lives.” Except that Jefferson died the same day- July 4, 1826. Others have not had such famous last words on earth, but are remembered for things they said upon leaving. Douglas MacArthur promised, “I shall return,” as he left the Philippines. The classic film, Casablanca, ends with Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick, saying, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
And so now I am facing the prospect of offering some final words. However, I am sure that I have nothing new, original or especially profound. We have loved living in Howe and serving the church Howe and Pretty Prairie United Methodist Churches. You are great people and we love you. But the opportunities for saying things to you all are dwindling now. There are a few sermons left, there are some conversations, but this is the last article. Let me offer to you some basic, foundational words that you will be familiar with by now. In the coming years, I encourage you to practice the Four Most Important Things.
1. Bible Study. Spend time reading God’s word. Study it. Memorize it. Read about it. Discuss it. Time spent with God in his word will never be wasted time. Get to know God in a new way. We are currently in the midst of a one-year campaign to read the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. I hope that you will not stop just because I am not here to remind you.
2. Prayer. Learn to devote time to God. Talk to him. Listen to what he has to say. Ask advice. Request help. Get to know God in new ways. You will find if you spend time with God, you will always have enough time. He will make the time productive and a blessing to you, every time.
3. Fellowship. Learn to enjoy the company of other Christians. Spend time with the people who love God. They will support you in your faith and walk with God. You can support them in their times of trial and difficulty. Together the people of God can stand against temptation and become powerful instruments of God’s grace and healing.
4. Ministry. Always remember that following Christ is not the end of the line. We are to study, prayer and fellowship to know the Lord, but the result of all these things is that we reach out to and care for those inside and outside the body of Christ. In a very real sense we are the hands and feet of God on earth.
One more thing- the United Methodists who worship at Howe and Pretty Prairie churches have a great opportunity coming up. The United Methodist Church is organized as a “connectional” system. One way that this works is for us to demonstrate the value of our connection. Our churches do not have to struggle and search for leadership. Our new pastor will arrive next month. We know that Jean Ness is competent, trained, educated and experienced in all areas that will make her an effective pastor. By receiving her, sharing in her ministry and caring for her family we demonstrate to the world, and to ourselves, that we serve a great God who is bigger than our differences and changes that the world may consider to be insurmountable.
God bless you all.