It’s my last Saturday in Houston (as a resident) and last weekend as the pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (or any Presbyterian church). The final message is ready for tomorrow and we are heading out in a bit for Ryan Kuykendall’s soccer game, lunch, errand running and a great evening watching the Clemson – Ga. Tech game with the Simpsons and other friends. And thhank you Houston weather for a perfect last Saturday!
Like much of the last few weeks I am continuing to reflect on both my time at Grace and my years in the Presbyterian Church.
Reflections usually prompt a blog post so here’s another:
In the Old Testament there was a pattern established that every seventh year would be a year of release – in Hebrew it was known as the Shmita. The specific requirements for the Shmita are found mostly in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy (with brief mentions in Jeremiah and Nehemiah). The basic idea is to cancel debts and loans and give the land an opportunity to rest. The rest requirement is why the Shmita is sometimes referred to as the Sabbatical Year. The commands are very clear, work hard and harvest for six years and then set aside the seventh as the Shmita.
In August I completed six years as the Senior Pastor of Grace. It has been six years of hard work, heart work and an abundant harvest of love of joy. Over the last six years:
We weathered storms, Katrina, Rita, Ike and the stock market of 2008. Through those storms we grew closer and we grew stronger.
We introduced new words to our vocabulary: Project 180, Grace Quarterly, Kingdom Assignments, The Backyard, Women in the Word, Kid’s Christmas Musical and Prime Time.
We renovated the courtyard and the Grace School classrooms. We purchased a bus, recovered from hurricane damage and made improvements and repairs to roofs, mechanical, lighting and audio visual systems.
Along the way there have been the continued ministries of weddings, baptisms, memorial services, retreats, classes and mission trips all around the nation and the world (for me that’s included Hungary, Romania, Ecuador, Kenya and Mongolia).
We fully embraced Jesus’ command to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbors as we actively pursued a vision to introduce our neighbors to Jesus Christ. Our neighbors took notice and we even made the front page of the Chronicle on Christmas Day!
We took risks and learned lessons and discovered again and again God’s faithfulness. It really has been an amazing six years of God’s Grace.
Again, the seventh year – the Shmita – is the year of release. In the surprising ways that God works it turns out this is a year God is releasing me to follow Him to new places that He has prepared for us to continue His Kingdom work. I am excited about the possibilities that await us in Birmingham, Alabama as Kim and I join Mountaintop Community Church in the work of turning fans into players.
I am also convinced that this will be a year of release for Grace Presbyterian Church. During the Shmita any fruit or crop that grew was considered to be hefker, common property, and was shared with everyone. My hope and prayer is that in this coming year of release we may all discover even greater freedom to share the fruit of God’s kingdom with our neighbors as we introduce them to Jesus in Houston, in Birmingham and all around the world.