30 May 2020Acts 20:25-38
And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. (v. 32)
Psalm: Psalm 52
Farewells are almost always difficult. Being married to a Methodist minister and moving from one circuit to another, leaving friends, local interests, sometimes even a comfortable manse for a less comfortable one – all these have taught me this! But, like Paul, we must learn to commend the friends we have grown to love and for whom we have cared, to the greater love and care of God.
Paul’s farewell to his friends from Ephesus, with whom he had lived and among whom he had worked for some two years (19:10), was fraught with emotion – they prayed and wept and embraced and kissed, knowing they would not meet again in this world – and then they took him to his ship.
The nineteenth century Irish church historian, C. H. Crookshank, described John Wesley’s final farewell to Ireland in 1789 in similar terms: "Before going on board, he gave out a hymn, and the crowd joined him in its singing. He then knelt down, and asked God to bless them and their families, the Church and especially Ireland. Shaking of hands followed, many wept, and not a few fell on the old man’s neck and kissed him. He went on board, the vessel moved …"[i]
Like Paul, John Wesley had nurtured the societies that had come to faith under his teaching and ministry; they were precious to him and it was so difficult to "let go and let God". But, under God, it had to be done – they were captive all to the gospel and they were in the hands of God.
We all have experiences of such sad farewells, but we should be comforted, in the full sense of the word, by Paul’s commendation of his friends to God and to the message of God’s grace. Can there be a better farewell gift?
- How does your personal faith enable you to say goodbye – to people, to positions in life, to projects, to what has become precious to you?
- Reflect on such a time in your life. What did the pain of parting teach you?
[i] History of Methodism in Ireland, C. H. Crookshank 1885, R.S Allen and Son, London. Vol. 1 p. 463