Normally, the life of the preacher should not overly intrude into the preaching of the Gospel. We preach, not ourselves, but Jesus Christ crucified. In the words of the unnamed rector in The Hammer of God, “One ought not talk about oneself, it may hide Jesus from view.” But pastors are human – we also have eyes, hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions. And so, the sermon will reflect the personality of the preacher, and the experiences of the preacher will affect how the sermon is written.
In seminary, we are taught that there will be a final sermon we preach. We may not know when it is. There will also be a final sermon that parishioners will hear. I have seen it often – parishioners unknowingly attending church for the last time. Age, incapacity, tragedy: they all intervene. Some more suddenly than others.
Something they did not tell us about, but which I suppose I should have known, is that at some point, my own children will hear a final sermon before heading off into the wide world. Two nights ago, that happened. My eldest daughter, who until this point lived under my roof, has now moved on. She will return occasionally. But only occasionally. We will see her again for a few more days of family vacation this summer. After that, every family gathering becomes contingent.
And so, below is the final sermon preached to my daughter before she left. She has faithfully attended my parish and endured me as her pastor for almost 18 years. She has served as associate organist for the last three. Now, I must entrust her to the care of others. A brother pastor will watch out for her in college, as much as he is able. He’s a good man. He’ll faithfully watch over her soul. As for me, I pray for her. I check her travels on the “iFind” app – much to her annoyance. I already miss her. But it was time. She has grown, and now she is off on her own adventures.
All of this was in my mind as I wrote this sermon. I didn’t want it to be there. The sermon isn’t about me, and it isn’t about her. It’s about Jesus Christ and him crucified. The topic is our Baptism into Christ Jesus and his death. But when I was done, I noticed a bit of a “sending” character to the end. I left it in, because, being human, I couldn’t take it out. I managed to preach without tears. At the end of the service, I thanked her for serving as organist, and invited her to come back anytime. She’ll always be welcome.