Scripture recounts numerous stories of God leading his people on journeys. Abram and Sarah, Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, the Israelites, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, the prophets of old, Jesus’ disciples, Saul, Barnabus, Peter and more. One of my favorite accounts finds Jesus in Samaria near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph (Gospel of John chapter four). Jesus was tired from the journey and needed to find rest. A most remarkable story unfolds in this place. Jesus’ interaction with a woman at the well helps us see the boundaries of the Kingdom of God expanding to include people previously thought to be outside its reach.
Two years ago the Session of West Side called me to serve as interim pastor. Since that time, we have been on a journey together to explore the contours of a new landscape. Our path has had many ups and down, twists and turns. At the onset, no one could have predicted all the journey would require of us. Sometimes we grew tired from the journey. During those respites, it seems to me God offered us refreshment. As I look back, I see three key seasons of journey followed by rest. First came “Canoeing the Mountains”, a season of exploration and learning followed by respite time to listen to one another. Next came the “Church Mission Study”, a season to discern our hoped-for future, followed by a pause to set priorities for the road ahead. Finally, in this season of the “Pastor Nominating Committee”, the nine members labor on behalf of the rest of us. The work of this season is to take initiative on the evening service, to onboard new staff members, and to relish with wonder about all that God has lead us through.
At this bend in the river I sense God’s call to me is to step away. My work here is done. I’ve given my best and my all to guide you in your labor to prepare for and to call new pastoral leadership. It is time for me to rest a while and to spend time marveling at God’s goodness in this journey. As I set out to lead another congregation I do so stronger and wiser because of the test we have been through.
May we, brothers and sisters in Christ, count it all joy that in the midst of this journey we had one another to persevere with together? Yes. We may! The author of the letter of James invites us to do just so.
Beloved people of God, be strong, stand firm, know that God is at work in your midst in marvelous ways. In this final lap of the journey, your remaining task is love one another well; as if your life depended on it. For indeed, it does. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, and found among you, this day and every day ahead.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love — 1 Corinthians 16: 13-14
—Pastor Shari Jackson Monson
**Pastor Shari’s last Sunday at West Side is July 22. Mid-August, after a season of rest, she will begin a new journey serving as Interim Senior Pastor at John Knox Presbyterian Church in Normandy Park (near SeaTac).