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  • Writer's pictureRick Chaffee

The Time of Transition

   There are a number of situations in our lives when one era, one period of time, one familiar setting, ends and another one begins.  Generally these are not sudden or unexpected but rather can be charted and planned on.  I am referring to things such as when parents have their last child go to school, or leave home, and they become “empty nesters.” For the growing child it is going to a new school, deciding upon a career, getting engaged, married, and starting a family.  In the workplace it is when one receives a promotion, or gets a different boss, or accepts a new job.  Approaching these times of change usually includes a period of transition as one stage is outgrown and a new one is entered with some excitement tinged with uncertainty.  To be sure, there are occasions when the change is totally unexpected and undesired.  In these cases there is no preparatory transition, only painful trauma.  We just witnessed such an event here in Syracuse with the killing of two police officers in the line of duty.  Thankfully these are unusual occurrences, the last Syracuse police officer murdered being thirty-four years ago.  Transitional change is our usual pattern.


   In the gospel accounts of the coming of Jesus we are introduced to one whose whole focus is to prepare the way for the ministry of Christ.  This is the one called John the Baptist.  All four Gospels speak of him and describe him as the one predicted by the prophets as “a voice calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Matthew 3:3).  John’s message was one of repentance, “I baptize you with water for repentance.  But after me will come one who is more powerful than I…. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). We are not exactly sure how long his ministry lasted before Jesus came on the scene, but truly his was a time of transition for the people.  His role was to get them ready to receive all that Christ would teach them.  Part of his transitional message was to make sure that they understood that their relationship with God was not based on their ethnic or religious identity.  “Do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’” (Matthew 3:9).  What was needed was confession of sin, repentance, and belief in the Savior Jesus Christ. 


   In a very real sense the last forty years has been for the Amber Church a time of transition.  I have been your “interim minister.”  My message from the beginning has always been to try and point you to Jesus.  We can take no relational comfort in our religious affiliation, as if we inherited the right to be Christians from our fathers and mothers.  And yes, we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Amber Church, but it is not a church membership certificate that connects us to Jesus as if it were a ticket on the bus to heaven.  Each one of us stands or falls on the basis of our own individual faith in our personal Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  I trust that you all know this as it has been the consistent message of pulpit and Bible class.     


   Now with my retirement looming on the horizon all of us are feeling a little hesitant, a bit unsure of what to do and what lies ahead.  Some may want to close their eyes to what may seem uncomfortable.  Others may want to work out a host of intermediate steps that can prepare the way before us.  Most of us are probably somewhere in between these two approaches.  The reality is that we are already in transition and have been for years.  Indeed, for the last five or six years we have been talking and planning specifically for this coming change of leadership.  And now the time is at hand. 


   I am not trying to make a direct correlation between myself and John the Baptist, or your next minister and Jesus Christ.  But what I am trying to say clearly is that if you have responded to the message of repentance and faith then you need not fear any future changes.  In fact, what we all can do together is to look and plan expectantly that God will provide for us a new pastor, one who will love us and lead us and shepherd us by God’s Spirit.  Let’s anticipate that God will come to our small church and move among us in power.  May we know that  “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering the wheat into his barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12).  


   May our new minister come with the same message Jesus had by saying, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).  And may we all rise and follow Christ. 


   See you in Worship.


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