On Saturday we celebrated our 100th Love Feast. And it was on Zoom! It was Rod White’s last Love Feast as one of our pastors. In December Rod will transition off of staff. This is the final phase in a long transition of our founding pastor out of leadership. How momentous!
Many years ago, God called Rod and Gwen to Philly from across the country with a vision for the next generation of the church.
It was a church of seekers, lovers, cynics, artists, troublemakers (thank God many of you are still here!)—folks recovering from traditional church and wanting to do something new with Jesus. Rod thought that something new with Jesus could be done. He thought we actually could form a community that was founded in love, where love was the currency, and all of us extra-grace-required people had a place to express our gifts. He believed we all had gifts, being made in the image of God and filled with the Spirit, not just bound to mess up. He believed we were good trees planted in good soil here in the Philly region, and we may as well have fun with it! For the sake of each other and the next person.
Rod taught with his life and in friendship, and shepherded us to grow and multiply cells and congregations by the power of the Spirit for almost 25 years. His inspiration sparked compassion teams and missions and good businesses that reached far beyond us and still do. Yet he always stayed present and local, as small as he could, building teams and sharing responsibility and showing that anyone could follow Jesus because they were loved and special. And when things fell apart or experiments didn’t work, he was there with an incredibly sincere grin or even laughter to assure us that it’s OK, it’s not the end of the world; Jesus is Lord. Don’t let anybody steal your joy, he’d say! So many of us learned to take risks in faith that we may not have taken before.
So in his characteristic joy, like St Francis, I want to give thanks to God with you for Rod. Thanks for being obedient to the Spirit, Rod. To move your family across the country and imagine a church where everyone counted and could make a difference. Thanks for kicking off our Circle of Hope with such zeal and gusto. Thanks for laying such a firm foundation in Christ. I want to pray with Paul in Ephesians 1, which is all about the riches of our inheritance in Christ, that this depth of grace and HOPE that you’ve taught us would keep returning to you.
For this reason, ever since we heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, we have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in our prayers. We keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. We pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
We love you, Rod, and know that you have loved us more, like Christ, and the words thank you don’t feel like enough. You have written on our hearts, and I pray that that gift will keep on multiplying into the next Circle of Hope.