Category Archives: Sermon Follow Up & Feedback

Not All Tears Are Evil

Thank you from Pastor Jim & Elizabeth.

Dear Westminster –

I simply don’t have the words to express the gratitude thank you in calligraphywe have for the wonderful farewell celebration for us.  It was a great blessing to have the sanctuary filled with songs of praise and also filled with many people from Westminster past, present, and future.   Thanks to all of you who wrote cards and notes. Thanks for the great food. Thank you for the fountain for my cactus garden.  Thank you for recording so many videos for us (Mary gave the ‘uncut’ version of the video today so that Elizabeth and I can watch it tonight at our home).  Thanks to the choir, worship band, Donna, Judy, and Megan, for using so many of my most cherished worship songs and melodies.  Thanks to our awesome staff of Mary, Cori, Carole, Brent, Jorge, Becky, Jennifer, Leticia & Lisa for all of the extra work involved with the celebration – you did such a great job.

Thank you to the congregation for all of the heartfelt expressions of love and affection.  Yesterday’s service and farewell program will always be one of the high points of my life.  It felt like my favorite part of my favorite movie – “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

People have asked how I’m feeling now that I finished my last Sunday at Westminster and I said it feels like sending a son or daughter off to college or out into the world – there is happiness about gaining a bedroom – sadness about losing the closeness of a beloved family member – and the ongoing concern about how your son or daughter is doing for years into the future.  In the same way — we thank God for you – for this church — and will carry you in our hearts and prayers in the years ahead.

Sorry that I was not able to get through my last sermon without getting all choked up.  What I was trying to read for you at the end of the program yesterday was from an email sent by one of my best friends, Greg Montague.  He and I were randomly assigned as roommates at UCSD our freshman year and both were on the rowing team during our years there.   I thought Greg’s words were particularly appropriate for this season in our lives.  I will insert them below for you….

I’m sure there will be many more tears from both of you, and your friends and family, this coming Sunday and the days ahead.  It makes me think of the quote from J.R.R. Tolkien at the end of The Lord of the Rings when Gandalf says to the hobbits “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth.  Go in peace!  I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”  It also makes me remember the tears that fell after our last crew races those many years ago.  It’s okay to shed some tears for it means you care.  You have put your heart and soul into many years of dedicated ministry to the congregation at Westminster.  You have, in accordance with the ability God has given you, done your best. I pray that you can find peace in that. I pray that you can trust God to continue on in his work at the church.  I pray that the tears you shed are “good” tears.  Tears that flow because you will miss your family at Westminster Pres. and the fellowship you’ve nurtured over the years.  Tears which convey the love you feel that mere words don’t fully express.

I’m proud of you, my brother.  You have done well through the challenges that life and ministry can bring.  Now comes a time of rest, reflection, renewal, and re-creation.

I appreciate these words from my friend Greg – just as I appreciate the many words and expressions of gratitude from all of you.  And I am slowly living into that final sentence from Greg above – Now comes a time of rest, reflection, renewal, and re-creation.

God Be With YouMay the Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight.” (Genesis 31:49)

In Christ, Pastor Jim and Elizabeth Rauch

 

 

What’s Heaven Like?

Lately I’ve been preaching on what the Bible teaches regarding Heaven, Hell, and life after death. The Christian life is always a balancing act – this is especially true when it comes to the balance between our focus on Heaven and our focus on life here and now. Sometimes you hear the phrase: “He’s so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good” – which applies to a type of Christian who seems so focused on spiritual and heavenly things he/she does very little to help people on this earth. No one likes this type of person. Yet I agree with C.S. Lewis that when you study the people who have thought the most about Heaven – you find that they also did a lot to improve life here on earth for others. This is why it is good for us to learn about the promises God gives us in his word about what to expect after we die.

In preparing for my sermons I came across a beautiful and Biblical description of Heaven by a French Reformed theologian, humanist, and poet named Simon Goulart (1543-1628). Goulart was a contemporary of John Calvin and part of the Protestant Reformation of his time. It was an era when life was short, but the strong vision of Heaven that pastors preached about helped give hope to people as they faced plagues and persecution and other challenging circumstances. Here is Goulart’s description that I found very helpful for contemplation and meditation:

“The eternal and blessed life with God in heaven, accompanied by rest and unspeakable glory, is the goal of the faith of Christians.

This is the harbor of their hope, the refuge of all their desires, the crown of their consolation that they will certainly enjoy, having escaped from the travails of this miserable and fleeting earthly life, indeed, from death itself.

They will receive in heaven glorified bodies, healed of all evils, no longer afflicted by sin, ignorance, errors, illness, sadness, worry, fear, anguish, or enemies. They will be delivered from all pain and suffering.

They will enjoy fully and completely the Lord their God, the fountain and inexhaustible treasure of all good things, who will pour out on them all His goodness, His infinite joy, with which He will satisfy all their thoughts and desires. They will see Him and contemplate Him face-to-face, without any clouds to obscure Him.

They will learn of God’s wisdom with regard to the creation and redemption of His elect by means of Jesus Christ, and the reasons for all His all-powerful and wondrous works.

The eternal Father will disclose His burning and unspeakable love for them, which He demonstrated by sending His Son into the world to draw them from death into eternal life.

His children will be moved by His gracious work, filled with wonder, contentment, and ineffable delight, and will love their heavenly Father with a burning love, submitting themselves fully to His wisdom with eager joy.

And they will submit to Him as their only sovereign and greatest good. And they will rejoice with continuous joy in His presence, magnifying His glory, singing of His goodness along with the holy Angels and the entire Church triumphant.

There they will see Jesus Christ, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Apostles, and all the faithful who have preceded them, including their family members and friends who died in repentance and faith.

This entire company together, with one heart and voice, will recall the goodness and infinite blessings God has shown them, celebrating with songs of thanksgiving the praises of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thus eternal life is the end and fulfillment of all good things for which God has purchased us through His Son.

This is the goal on which our gaze should be fixed throughout our earthly pilgrimage. This is the treasure that we should unceasingly desire. This is the hour and the blessing to which all the plans and efforts of our lives should be inclined. This is our true country, our permanent city, in which our citizenship has been acquired by the merit of the death of Jesus Christ. This is the home that we long for, amidst the banishments, the weariness, the dangerous fears of this valley of misery and the shadow of death. This is the safe refuge and the beautiful harbor toward which we sail amidst so many waves and storms that constantly trouble the world. This is the blessed land where we will dwell by means of death.” –Simon Goulart (1543-1628), Christian Discourses XXVIII, 322-327.