One of the ways that the Lord demonstrates his love is by giving us godly men and women through whom he pours grace into our lives. For most, only a select few fit such a description. It is these men and women, these conduits of God’s grace, that offer us encouragement to lift our “drooping hands and strengthen week knees (Heb 12:12),” precious wisdom when we are paralyzed by indecision, or a gentle word of admonition when we need to be corrected. They offer the shoulder to cry on and the sympathetic tear. They share in the roars of our laughter and the silence of our sorrows. They are beside us for life’s biggest days: the days our babies are baptized, our youths are married, and our loved ones are buried. These people are God’s gifts to us, given that we might know to a greater extent just how precious we are to our Heavenly Father. Steve and Mary Jennings were such gifts to this church.
Two weeks ago, Westminster bid a tearful farewell to our beloved pastor and his wife. It was a scene reminiscent of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders: “And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship (Acts 20:37-38).” Steve and Mary begin this new chapter of their lives with our heartfelt gratitude, ardent respect, and warmest affections.
Westminster Presbyterian Church has also started a new and exciting chapter. While elements of the story may change, the driving themes of the narrative will remain the same. Westminster has, by God’s grace, been built upon the solid rock of the Word. Ours is a legacy of unapologetically exalting a crucified and resurrected Savior for the salvation of the lost and the sanctification of the saved by employing those ordinary means appointed by God himself: Word, prayer, and sacrament. It has please the Lord to use Westminster as an instrument of his mercy in Jacksonville for decades. We remain now, as much as ever, prepared and positioned to be dramatically useful to the Kingdom of Christ and to wreak devastation upon the kingdom of darkness. We have the sacred privilege and joyous duty of fixing our gaze upon the Lord Jesus and tuning our ears to once again hear his command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).”
Jordan and I are excited and grateful for the opportunity to serve this blessed congregation. You have warmly welcomed us into your homes and your lives. You have shared with us your joys and sorrows, your fears and hopes. You have loved us and prayed for us. It is my holy honor and vow to be yours in prayer, study, and service; “to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith (Phil 2:17)” “by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:11).”