'AND NOW, THE END IS NEAR; .........'
'And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I'll say it clear, I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.....
But more, much more than this, I did it my way.'
Familiar words from a familiar song by the late great Frank Sinatra.
Words that express thanks for being able to live a life that did not depend on others - a life characterised by satisfying one's own self desires and promoting one's own self esteem.
A life where contentment is found in successfully living out one's dreams irrespective of how they affected others - essentially living a selfish life.
Now contrast that with the words of the apostle Paul when he writes -
'I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.'
Paul, previously Saul, had been responsible for the death and persecutions of many Christians. He had a fearful reputation. But after he encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, his life changed dramatically. Paul became one of Christ's apostles and one whose influence and ministry was central to the growth of the early Church. His letters and writings still inspire us today.
So what had happened to him? What had caused this revolution in his life?
Well, it was because Paul had stopped living a life focussed on - my way - but now lived a life based on Christ's way. He had been given a new vision and a new life with new priorities. And in living his new life through obeying and reflecting Jesus, he had found an even greater contentment - for he had found peace and strength through living his life for Christ.
As Alison and I leave you soon, our prayer is that during our time with you - you too have experienced that same strengthening and contentment in your life as we met with God every Sunday morning and studied how to live Christ's way.
We are both grateful to you all for making us so welcome through your 'W & W' ways - thank you too for all your love, friendship, and encouragement shown in so many different ways during the past two and a half years. It has been our sheer joy and privilege to serve you all, and to also 'journey' with many of you - even sadly to their 'final curtain'.
My particular thanks goes to Ian our Session Clerk and his wife Jean for all their valuable support given to Alison and I - and to Tom Daniels our organist for using his wonderful musical gifts together with the choir, for leading and always enhancing our times of worship.
In the Good News version of the Bible the word 'happy' is often used instead of the word 'blessed' - we see this especially in the Beatitudes. ( Matthew 5 verses 1-12)
Yet to be 'blessed' means to receive God's seal of approval - and when we experience God's approval, then we are truly happy.
The Bible teaches us that we are only truly happy when we don't live - my way - but instead - His way.
Many have commented that by God's grace, 'happiness' seemed to be present in our congregation - and for me, that was a real bonus (and an immense blessing).
As a new chapter unfolds in the history of your church, I pray that God will richly bless the ministry of Rev Malcolm Cuthbertson, and that by God's grace, not only will you know continued happiness, but that true blessing will received as many come to know the joy of the Lord Jesus in their lives by living His way.
Thank you for many happy memories and your much kindness.
With our fondest love,
John and Alison.