Farewell Rapid City


For a very long time, our people didn’t feel a need to have a story about the beginnings of creation. We were a wandering people and so when others asked who we were and where we had come from we told them the story of Sarah and Abraham. That story is reported in the 26th chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy and begins, “A watering Aramean was my father . . .” That story is more ancient than the Bible itself and was incorporated into the Bible as one of the most ancient stories of our people. Later, when we were in exile and lived among people who had grand cosmological stories that told of the earth being formed in a battle between two gods, our people knew that their story could not be accurate because they knew that there is only one God. In those times the stories that begin our Bible and tell of God creating the heavens and the earth emerged and were treasured by the faithful of Israel. Jesus grew up in that tradition and those of us who follow Jesus as disciples learned the stories of the Hebrew Scripture and adopted them as our own.

Our story, then, is the story of wanderers. We are descended from wanderers and we are the people who are fiercely monotheistic. We speak of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the one God of all that is, who was known by generations of our people going back as far as we can remember and figures in the most ancient stories we know.

So, when I tell the story of my own life and of our family, it is a story of wandering. It is a story of faith. Susan and my story began at a church camp in Montana when we were children. It continues in the stories of the college where we were married and shared our learning. From there we moved to Chicago for theological seminary and from there to two small churches in southwestern North Dakota. We tell the stories of our move from North Dakota to Idaho and from Idaho to South Dakota. There we stayed for a while. It was twenty-five years before God’s Spirit moved us to pack up and move on once again. When we tell people who we are we speak of the places that we have called home in the decades of our living.

There is, of course, more to that story. We could reach back to the stories of our parents and grandparents and great grandparents. We know parts of those stories. But there are so many generations between the ones we have been told and the most ancient stories of our people that we cannot report each generation as was attempted by our scriptures in telling the story of Jesus.

Another way that we tell our story is to report goodbyes. We have said good bye to many places. Sometimes we have driven away from the places we have called home with tears in our eyes even though we knew we would return. Once we have moved, returning is always sweet, but it is never the same as coming to a place that is home.

Yesterday we drove by the house where we lived for 25 years. We loved that house. We enjoyed our time there. But it is no longer ours. We do not own the land, but we are its stewards for bits of time. That house now belongs to another. Still, it was fun to see it and our memories were stirred by looking at the outside of the house.

So today we say good bye once again to this place that was our home. It is time for us to move on to the north and west to the home where we now live. What we know is another truth that the ancients knew. Our real dwelling place is with God. “God, thou has been our dwelling place in all generations,” begins the 90th Psalm. That is our truth. Our home is with God. Along the way there are many places we have called home.

Saying good bye is always a challenge because we have loved this place and its people. It is populated by our friends and people for whom we care deeply. And we know that we will not be together for some of the events of our lives. We will miss the baptisms of new babies and the funerals of elders. We will miss graduations and confirmations and weddings. We are part of the story, but only part.

The “bye” is “good” however, because moving on and continuing the journey is what our people do. There is much to call us toward the future. The places where our children and grandchildren have chose to call home are now a part of our story. We are reminded of an important truth: the story does not end with our generation. We belong to something that is much bigger than ourselves. The journey did not start with us and it will not end when our time of living on this earth has concluded. We belong to a long line of history-making and our story is far from ending.

Farewell, people of Rapid City. Godspeed. May the love that we have shared continue to grow and inspire and the stories we have shared continue to guide the journeys of our people. May the ministry we have known remind others of the joy of the love of God and the fellowship of Christ and the hope of the Holy Spirit. A thousand benedictions have already been said and many more will be added in the generations to come.

This is not the end of our story. We will return to visit in the future. The journeys of those beloved will cross paths with our journey in the time to come. In the words of one of our teachers, “We will walk with a truth that is ever before and sing our God’s song in an ever strange land. Creation still moves through travail and through mirth. And justice, like waters, keeps freshening the earth.”

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