Saying farewell is not easy, but this becomes necessary along life’s journey.
Paul, eager to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost, decided to sail past Ephesus, so he had to arrange a meeting with the Ephesian elders only.
When these elders met him at Miletus, Paul knew that this was going to be their last physical meeting together. He was going to miss them. He had to say goodbye.
Before getting sentimental about this though, he had to put some things into perspective and help prepare them for life after him.
Paul was a visionary who saw not only the fulfilment of pleasant promises but also the danger of devious distractors. In no uncertain manner, he warned the elders abut “savage wolves” that would come and urged them to remain good overseers, shepherding the flock of God. He foresaw that from among their number there would come those who would seek to distort the truth. The only protection against such was to ensure that they continued the tradition of sound teaching.
Are we who are called to oversee Gods flock, seeking to prepare them for those false teachers and predators and hardships that may arise? Are we being faithful to our calling?
Now this applies not only to ministers of the gospel like myself, but to all of us to whom God has entrusted specific tasks. Parents, for example, must prepare their children for life without them. teachers must communicate lessons to serve their students long after they are no longer in touch. All sorts of lessons that we teach outlive us.
In making his appeal, Paul was able to recall his example of hard work and solid witness- his faithfulness to the gospel he proclaimed.
Will we, when the time for our departure (from any place, office, status or state) be in a position to attest that we have been faithful?
And finally, the goodbye. He knelt down and prayed. With all the weeping and grieving that accompanied the goodbye kisses, there was one thing they were assured of. They had been commended to the immeasurable grace of God.
I am an itinerant minister. I should try and do my part, do it well for as long as I am where I am. The time will come for me to leave. The church will see to that. It even has its own tradition of farewell services.
Lord help me to be confident that when my parting time comes, you remain. help me to be guided in my leadership by your will, so that when I leave, I can be assured that through your immeasurable grace, those whom I must live will continue to grow in grace and to encourage others in faith. Amen.