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RUSSELL CHUR HStarting Over Redux

About this time last year, the Rev. Dr. Lew Parks wrote in these pages about the challenge of either “dawdling in a memory or heading out for a new experience.” His ruminations were prompted by a re-reading of Ezra and Nehemiah, which told of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile. Pastor Lew mused about the choices the returnees had when they found that their city and temple, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army, remained in ruins after so many years: they could break down and cry; grumble and wish they didn’t have to deal with the difficult task of rebuilding, or ask their enemies for help. None of the options were palatable. Instead, they prayed to the God whom they had once turned their backs on and set about starting over.

The story of the returning Israelites is our story today, Pastor Lew wrote. Over and over we must find a way to begin anew in life because life is not static but evolving. Change, pleasant or otherwise, is constant, and we must adapt. And we at Calvary find ourselves in that position today: we are changing shepherds of the flock once again. I say “we” because I feel blessed to be part of the Calvary family, but I’m acutely aware that the change is difficult for some. Let’s set about starting over, together.

As it happens, there’s a similarity between Pastor Lew’s comments and my first sermon at Calvary, “We’re Doing a New Thing”, which also deals in part with the exiles’ liberation from Babylonian captivity and return to their homeland. My take, however, deals not with the daunting task of rebuilding a city but with the comforting news that God goes with us and prepares our way.

The Israelites were leaving a terrible setback, and protected by God, they were proceeding to a bright future. Our story today, Calvary, is not one of calamity but of uncertainty due to attrition in recent years in our numbers. If I can steal a line from Sam Cooke, a change is gonna come. But it’s a bright one, church, because we’re doing a new thing.

One final word about Pastor Lew: I am indebted to him for his graciousness. He has helped and advised me tremendously during this transition. Somebody once said folks don’t have to be nice, and when they are, they don’t have to be nice to you. Pastor Lew has been unbelievably nice to me, and I will be forever grateful.

Pastor Russell

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