This coming Sunday I will preach for the last time as Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Dixon’s Mills, Alabama. And I’m not exactly sure what I will say.
For the last nine years and three months I have preached many different sermons to the same people, usually four times each week counting Sunday School lessons, which makes for something close to 2000 messages. I’ve preached the Old and New Testaments. I’ve preached the Law, History, Poetry, Prophets, Gospels, and Epistles. I’ve preached from every book of the Bible, every Psalm, every narrative, and every verse of Romans. I’ve preached through Ruth, Philippians, the Pastorals, James, most of Isaiah and 1 Corinthians, and through Revelation twice.
This isn’t a resume or CV. Most pastors of nine years could make a similar list. It’s simply my way of asking, “What’s left to say?”
I know there are some things I could say, things others in my place might say.
I could appropriate,…
I could borrow someone’s farewell speech. Maybe a great general like Washington or Napoleon or MacArthur, or an epic hero like Frodo or Gandalf. Or maybe the Apostle Paul in Acts 20 or 2 Timothy 4.
Or have my kids come out singing “So Long, Farewell,” followed by a broken rendition of Captain Von Trapp’s “Edelweiss.”
Maybe we’ll take a stroll down memory lane, avoiding the potholes, admiring the highlights. Of course, this risks becoming a rendition of “Aaron’s Greatest Hits,” which may or may not receive rave reviews. We could avoid this by giving glory to God, but that’s hard to do when you’re talking about yourself. I don’t think I want my last sermon to be a humblebrag.
A spleen vent would be even worse. Does part of me wish I could say some things to certain people in front of everyone? Oh, yes. Am I tempted, knowing there’s not much they could do about it? Sort of. Would it feel good to get it off my chest? For a second, maybe. Are there teeth marks on my tongue? A few. Would this irreparably damage nine years of sweet Christian fellowship with an awesome church? Probably. Would it be worth it? Not for any amount of money.
But I’d pay good money to go back and say some things differently. Or not at all. Or say some things I should’ve said and didn’t.
I’m imagining myself seven years in the future when our oldest son leaves for college. No doubt I’ll want to pour an encyclopedia of accumulated life wisdom over his head as he walks out the door. Even with years to prepare for it, I know there will be too much I will want to tell him. Only there won’t be time.
And there won’t be time this coming Sunday. There’ll only be time for one more sermon.
Wikipedia says Lao-tzu taught us that a thousand-mile journey begins with a single step. He didn’t say how you finish it, but I’m willing to guess. I’m willing to believe that by the time you’ve walked a thousand miles, you finish it the same way you started it. You end it with a single step, just like all the steps before it.
If you live every day as if it might be your last, when it actually gets here, you don’t need to wonder what to do. You’ve been doing it all along. Whether you’re pitching your last inning, conducting your last symphony, praying one last time with your daughter before walking her down the aisle, or saying a last “I love you” at a hospital bedside, you’ve done it a thousand times before. And you’ll do it once more.
So, I think that’s probably what I’ll do.
I have tried for nine years and three months to preach expositional, doctrinally-rich messages from the Bible and offer myself as a conduit for God’s Spirit to connect God’s Word to God’s Church. I have tried to hold the Scriptures as my authority while celebrating God, the Gospel, and the Great Commission. I have tried to remember Richard Baxter’s famous words: “I preached as never sure to preach again, as a dying man to dying men.” I have tried to preach nothing but Christ and him crucified. All failures are mine, all victories God’s, but I hope I have succeeded.
Come Sunday, I hope to do it again.