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Service of Holy Closure at Light of the World Lutheran, Farmington (10.14.17)
Dear people of God, grace to you and peace in the name of God the Creator, and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who calls us to shine bright. Amen.
Over ten years ago, a group of faithful leaders from various partner churches and the Saint Paul Area Synod felt God was calling them to take on the risk of beginning a new ministry in the southern part of the synod. God was stirring in hearts and minds and enough brave people said yes, let’s do this. And eventually the ministry known as Light of the World Lutheran Church began. Early one-to-one visits, initial dreaming sessions, listening to God, sharing the Gospel in coffee shops and grocery store aisles, and a Wednesday dinner and worship at Southern Hills Golf Course launched this force of a ministry into the world. Where, from day one, you were committed to being the Light in the World. Light that impacted the world…light that was not overcome by darkness…Light that stemmed from your identity as people of Christ who gave you the light in the first place. You as Light of the world committed yourself to believing in the power of community to follow Jesus, act in the world, and pass on the faith. You committed yourselves to not just saying "this is who we are" but in actually being who you said you were. And for ten years, through ups and downs and transitions, that very vision was a reality. And today, now, we mark the end of the organization known as Light of the World Lutheran Church. But we do not mark the end of your calling to be that same light now that you were ten years ago. This is a hard day. Let’s be real. I want to take a moment here to mark this day with a minute of simple silence. Why you might wonder? Because while I know this day is about celebrating the ten years of light that has shone brightly from this ministry and all those who have been part of it, I also know this is a day that all of us would rather didn’t need to happen. A day when grief, anger, anxiety, frustration, and other emotions are real. And to simply move past that without at least a brief acknowledgement doesn’t seem right. So let’s just breathe for a minute.
Hear now these words of scripture again… “What has come into being in him was life and the life with the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it... You are the light of the world…in the same way let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven”.
Dear friends, these are not shallow words. These are life giving and life forming words that I hope serve today as both a comfort and a challenge. Comfort in knowing that God brought this ministry into being and it was indeed light and life and that God is continually shining light. And challenge in that you are still called today, forever, to let your light shine. This congregation has done so well in shining light: from deep connections in those early days between your men’s group and families fleeing abusive homes, to helping with flood relief in Iowa light overcame darkness; from Habitat for Humanity, to the filling of closets with clothing. Light overcame darkness in the welcoming of dancing children who were not just put up with but who were essential to the life that was this community light overcame darkness; in the welcoming of interns and the lifting up of future leaders in the church light overcame darkness in this place; in inviting all people to be welcomed to the table with no exceptions and empowering folks to find their Gospel story light overcame darkness. And that’s just a little list, my friends. Light of the World shone light for the world without a doubt. And today while we say goodbye to the formal idea of a church called Light of the World, we say thank you Jesus for changing the world in very real ways with your love in this community for the last ten years. Perhaps your heart is broken today dear friends — but my prayer is that it can be broken open to see what God has done, and now what God will continue to do through you — who continue to be the Light of the World wherever you go, wherever you worship and wherever you are planted.
I do want to challenge you today a little bit. My challenge for all of you comes back to who you said you were over ten years ago. In your Statement of Faith, you said that you promise to follow Jesus and to engage in peace, justice and radical hospitality in the world that is darkened by isolation and brokenness. You also said that you value the power of community and that you will trust in the presence of God at all times. And you devoted your lives together to strive for grace filled relationships and to affirm your relationship as people — understanding that you are called to be the Body of Christ not just in name and idea but in reality. Friends, I pray that you continue to live into those promises. Today we will all stand behind and bless Alli, Bo, Kailee, and Mitch as they profess their faith in the living God and it is those things you promised that have helped them get here today. When they do that, and you promise to support them, I invite you to also make commitment to — to your faith, to your God, and to your calling. For you are the light of the world and you are called to let your light shine before all others now and every day of your life.
Thanks be to God. Amen.