Sunday Night Live Sermons
A FOND FAREWELL
Beverley and I have been enjoying about forty different functions at which we have been farewelled. We have been able to spend my time saying “goodbye” to so many thousands of people. We have been to about forty congregations, farewells and Christmas events for groups, congregations, centres, staff, volunteer functions and the like. Probably we have spoken face to face with about ten thousand people, given and received hugs from at least half that number and accepted peoples’ appreciation. Our house has been awash with flowers every day for the past month, and we have eaten lavishly. We have been farewelled in the Hotel Westin Ballroom, in Parliament House, in Wesley Theatre, Wesley Church, in the Sydney Town Hall, in our Aged Care Centres, Retirement Villages, Disability Centres, Offices, at Morling College, in dinners and luncheons, morning and afternoon teas and suppers.
We have received cards, letters and e-mails from hundreds of people, and best wishes from the Governor General, Prime Minister, Governor, Premier, Archbishops and heads of churches.They have involved services, luncheons, dinners, small and large gatherings averaging about one a day since mid November. We still have to preach In Wesley Church on Tuesday, at my Thursday service at Chapel in the City, where I have also preached every week for twenty seven years. Our elders, musicians and helpers in that service have been incredibly loyal and supportive, and certainly that has been the most uniformly enjoyable congregation I have ever met in my life.
Then I will also be preaching at Edward Eagar Lodge among the homeless where I have preached regularly also for twenty-seven years, although I have preached there less frequently since they have had their own full time ministry team, but in the early years Beverley and I and our children visited regularly and preached. Unlike every other congregation, I have even sung solos and quartets there! Beverley has played for the hymns. For many years I preached every Tuesday night at the healing service and of course preached in all of our aged care centres, disabilities centres, hospitals and other places where we now have full-time chaplains. We have been visiting and preaching for the last time in all of these places this month, just as I am closing my weekly ministry on radio and television. Why then a Closing Service with this congregation? Because this was traditionally regarded as the main congregation of the Mission.
When I started the morning congregation, no-one thought the International Congregation would grow as massively as it has, and would become the powerhouse of all of our congregations. I have already conducted my final preaching service there, and enjoyed the wonderful farewell luncheon they provided as have all of the other congregations. Today we enjoyed this congregation’s fellowship meal and speeches. Not even Nellie Melba had so many farewells! I said all I needed to say to the whole church at that magnificent public farewell in the Sydney Town Hall. I used Paul’s official farewell speech to the leaders of all the churches about Ephesus found in Acts 20 as my basis.
Tonight, I wish to take Paul’s farewell to his young minister friend Timothy, as the basis of my remarks. It is a farewell reflecting deepest feelings.
1. OUR CALLING TO PREACH THE GOSPEL.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Here was an outline of Paul’s calling to preach the Gospel. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge”: Paul speaks of Christ Jesus as the one who will “judge the living and the dead”, a clause found in all the early creeds of the church, “and In view of his appearing and his kingdom.” “I give you this charge” is one word in Greek. Timothy is to be governed in his thinking, not just by the present life but also by the coming judgment and the eternal kingdom of Christ.
The basic charge is: “Preach, ‘herald, proclaim the Word.” The preacher is not to air his own opinions but to proclaim God’s eternal, authoritative Word of truth. “Be prepared, be ready, be on hand.” The minister has to be on duty constantly, ready for any emergency. I have never had a silent phone number: it is in the ‘phone book so anyone can right me night and day. Over the years hundreds of calls have come in the middle of the night. That was not convenient for me, but it was at a time of need for the caller. “In season and out of season”. In addition to preaching the Word, Timothy is to “correct, convict, reprove, rebuke, censure, admonish and encourage, comfort and exhort.” He is to do these things with “patience, longsuffering and with careful instruction, all done in patience and love.” I have preached, taught, corrected, reproved, comforted with patience without fear or favour.
Timothy is warned of the time when men will not “put up with or listen to sound doctrine.” Timothy’s major responsibility was to defend and proclaim sound doctrine. He must do this constantly, since the time would come when people would not listen to truth. Instead, “to suit their own desires they will gather around them teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” The carnal heart prefers senseless myths rather than solid truth. In these difficult days of the Uniting Church, we have stood for Biblical truth, absolutely unafraid, and we have had some success in keeping the church listening to the Word of God. “Keep your head” the idea of keeping self-control under all circumstances, and “endure hardship”.
Above all he is to “do the work of an evangelist”. This does not mean an itinerant evangelist but suggests that a pastor must also be an evangelist, pointing sinners to Christ. The summary of Paul’s solemn charge to Timothy is this: “Discharge all the duties of your ministry”, fulfill your ministry.” Timothy is to make it, as far as he could, a complete and effective ministry. Those words were read to me as a charge of my calling on the night I was ordained in 1959, and I can say without reservation I have been true to them throughout all my life since as I fulfilled my ministry.
2. OUR CLOSURE OF OUR MINISTRY.
The time came for Paul to conclude his public ministry. He was in prison and would soon be tried and beheaded for preaching fearlessly the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering,” poured on the lamb of sacrifice just before it was burned on the altar. Numbers 28:24 He is nearing the end of his second, final imprisonment at Rome. He is conscious that his fate is sealed, for he adds, “the time has come for my departure.” i.e. his death. The word for “departure” means literally “unloose” as used for the “loosing” of a vessel from its moorings to go to sea or of soldiers “breaking camp.”
Paul was ready to leave his physical body and forsake this earth for the presence of his Lord. This second Epistle is his farewell or “swan-song.” I also shall die. That is certain. The only unknown is when. So this is for many people my last farewell before death. Paul sums up his years of ministry: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” All three clauses of the verse may be taken as related to athletics. “I have fought the good fight.” Ministry is not mean to be easy. It will involve: “struggling” Colossians 1:29 “wrestling” Colossians 4:12 “striving” 1 Timothy 4:10 and “fighting” 1 Timothy 6:12 We can paraphrase the verse like this: “I have competed well in the athletic contest of life, I have finished the race, I have kept the rules” — not “fouled out” and so been disqualified from winning.” After the race a “victory crown” awaits him, a laurel wreath given to the winner of the Marathon. The Lord, the righteous Judge was ready to “award” this prize to Paul at the end of the race, his victorious life.
The same reward awaits all who run the Christian race successfully to the finish and long for “his appearing” in the Second Coming. This week I received an e-mail about one of my dearest American friends. It read: “We want to let you know of the home-going of Dr. Charles W. Spicer. We want to thank you for your many prayers and letters of concern for Charlie. Charlie crossed the finish line and into his heavenly reward around 9:00 p.m. Tuesday evening.” Charlie this week heard the words from his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” I too, long to hear those words at the end of my life.
Beverley and I, together with our children when they were unmarried, devoted our entire lives to the welfare and blessing of the people of Wesley Mission and of Sydney. Nothing else took precedence. The work has grown by more than fifteen times what it was when we arrived, and we have today 4000 staff to help in the largest ministry in the nation. Thank you for all you have done to make our job so absolutely enjoyable over such a long period of time.
Three and a half years ago, I said this would be my last service with you. It is not only the end of my 27 years at Wesley, but the end of 49 years of active ministry. My leaving is at the time of my choosing, at the height of our work, when we have more centres, more staff, and more cash in the treasury than at any time in 194 years. My other office at Parliament is just two streets away. There my staff and responsibilities await and my term continues until 2011. I pray God’s blessing on you all and Keith and Carol as they assume their role. Beverley and our children join with me in thanking you all and wishing you God’s richest blessing. I have returned everything belonging to the Mission and finalized my accounts. We leave with good health and a clear conscience. We have been privileged people to serve at Wesley Mission, through the radio and television to speak to the nation and beyond, and to provide advice for the Prime Minister, the Premier, and for other office bearers of the State. Our children grew up in this church and they too have called it “home”. On their behalf I thank everyone who has made a contribution to our lives. Good bye, and God bless you all.
Rev. Dr. The Hon. Gordon Moyes A.C., M.L.C.