Pastor Dr. Christian Ceconi, Farewell Address, March 22, 2020
Sunday March 22, 2020
YouTube Video Online Worship: [PDF] Pastor Dr. Christian Ceconi
While we can not gather in person during this time, we can gather online for a time of sharing in the Word, prayer, and reflection.
This week, Pastor Dr. Christian Ceconi provides his farewell address as he prepares to depart to his new call in Berlin.
The lectionary readings for March 22, 2020 are:
1 Samuel 6:1-13
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you!
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1), that’s what we read in Ecclesiastes. We all had ideas and plans what this Sunday was going to look like. We anticipated a church filled with many people, we envisioned a procession with our bishop, wonderful music and song from our church choir, and of course meeting and greeting many, many people after the service. Now this church is empty and only a few people are here to record this video message.
A lot has happened since we announced that the farewell service will be cancelled. It was a week full of church life despite the closed and empty building. Dozens of phone calls have been made, mail packages were sent out with devotionals and instructions and ideas how to stay in touch. I got the feeling that we have talked to each other more than ever. Deep and meaningful conversations took place. People prayed for each other and asked for help or provided support. It was quieter somehow, there was uncertainty what is going to happen in the next couple of weeks. There was a lot of learning how to stay safe and how to keep each other safe by washing our hands regularly and keeping a safe distance. So, there was both, concern and the blessing of a time where we are close to each other despite the social distancing.
It’s is fascinating that this week’s gospel from John 9 is about blindness and the ability to see. Because that’s what we struggle with right now, with a virus we can’t see yet one which spreads and is endangering people. We struggle with not being able to see each other since we need to keep a safe distance in order to prevent the virus from spreading.
In this gospel there is the promise of healing. The blind is healed by Jesus and he can see. When he returns to his community everybody is having a hard time with this new situation. They can hardly believe that this healing happened. They question if it’s the same man who’s been blind before. They question if this is real, although he assures them and says: Yes, it’s me.
Jesus says at the end: “I have come into this world so that those who do not see may see…”
I think that’s what we need in these days. We need to see each other even though we can’t see each other.
We need to see each other’s needs.
We need to see each other’s need to be safe and protected.
We need to see each other’s need for encouragement and prayer and a phone call.
Social distancing doesn’t mean that we are isolated. Not seeing each other doesn’t mean that we can’t take care of each other. Not celebrating Sunday worship in the way we usually do doesn’t mean that we are not in communion in and through Christ.
[showing the ICNU sign]
Some of you know this sign. It reads I-C-N-U.
I showed you this sign before during one of my sermons. It means that we are called to tell each other which gifts and blessings we see in each other. We are called to tell each other “I see in you…”, because sometimes we can’t see it ourselves. And therefore, we sometimes do not recognize and acknowledge the many gifts we have. Practising ICNU means to discover the abundance of God’s gifts and to discover how and in which ways we can serve in God’s kingdom.
What I really love in this community, in this Martin Luther Church, is, that the ICNU thing has become a habit. Sometimes it’s just a matter of perspective if something is seen as a problem or as an opportunity.
Believing that God in his abundant love can transform everyone and everything, this congregation always leans toward the opportunity, trying to discover where God sees the opportunity and where God wants us to take the opportunity for his kingdom’s sake.
That’s what I really enjoyed and still enjoy here at Martin Luther Church. That’s why I think this congregation is such a blessing beyond its church walls. That’s why I am confident that this Corona Crisis will be a challenge for all of us, but also an opportunity to do God’s work.
It is sad that I can’t worship with you in this sanctuary right now. I would love to shake your hands and to hug you and to tell you what a difference this congregation and the years in ministry with you have made in my life and in the life of our family. I would love to express my gratitude and I would love to say in person a heartfelt thanks to you.
God willing there will be a time for us to meet and to celebrate.
For now, I encourage you to see the opportunities and the blessings God provides, to stay connected in prayer and mutual support.
I am grateful that our Vicars Silke Fahl and Adam McComb and Jordan Smith together with our church council we lead you in these challenging times. You all are a wonderful and generous community embodying God’s love for the world.
The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy.
The Lord look upon you with favor and + give you peace.