Leaving with Love: Embracing Good Goodbyes

Text: Acts 20:17-23, 36-38
17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
When it comes to farewells, you might feel like Snoopy who said to Charlie Brown one day:
''Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.''

Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, and while farewells can be difficult, they are an inevitable part of our journey. As many may know, our summer interns had their last day with us on Monday, and with that we had to say “Goodbye.” When I was in college there was what seemed like never ending goodbyes. People coming in and out of my life who for even a short time made a great impression. The problem for me was how do I say goodbye the right way?  We understand the significance of saying goodbye, along with love, sorrow, and blessing when someone who is following God’s will departs from our lives. We should celebrate Christians who are following God's desire for their life. Just like the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:17-38, who bid farewell to the church in Ephesus, we too face times of parting. What we will see from Scripture is the importance of responding to these goodbyes with grace and how we should love, support, and encourage those departing from us during these transitions. We do this by understanding:

The Faithful Departure:
  • When someone serves God faithfully within our church community, their departure marks the completion of a significant chapter in their life. Much like Paul, they may have impacted numerous lives during their time with us. As they step into the next phase of their journey, we recognize the importance of acknowledging their devotion and dedication to God's work.

Supporting Each Other:
  • During times of farewell, it is crucial for us to rally around those who are leaving. Our support doesn't end when they walk out the door; rather, we commit to checking in on them, offering prayers, and ensuring that they know they are not alone. Our love and encouragement transcend physical boundaries, reminding them that they will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

Remembering the Journey:
  • As we bid goodbye to individuals who have left their mark on us, we cherish the memories we've created together. Celebrating the fun times, the hard work, and the passion they brought to their service reminds us of the joy and unity we experience within our church family. These cherished memories serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement to us as we continue in love and service.

Embracing God's Will:
  • Goodbyes for Christians, are not seen as endings but rather as new beginnings. When we serve with a heart for God's glory, we understand that His plan and desire for our lives transcend our personal desires. Just as Paul followed God's leading on his journey, we encourage those leaving to seek His will and trust in His guidance.

Goodbyes can be emotional, but as a Christian, we should strive to embrace those leaving with love, sorrow, and blessing. Like the Apostle Paul, who bid farewell to the church in Ephesus, we recognize the significance of saying goodbye to those who have served God faithfully among us. As they embark on new journeys, we support and encourage them, knowing that our love and prayers transcend any distance. We cherish the memories created together and look forward to the continued legacy of love and service within our church family.