After 15 years as Executive Presbyter of Whitewater Valley Presbytery in Indiana, Rev. Alan Thames is preparing to enter retirement. Last Wednesday was his final Assembly Meeting with the presbytery. Here is the conclusion of the sermon he preached at that gathering.

Alan, we wish you blessings, rest, joy, and vitality in your retirement!

As I conclude my 15 years as the Executive Presbyter of Whitewater Valley Presbytery, I have pondered how we make a difference in our world. And here is what I believe we are called to do. 

We begin with building relationships. We begin by preparing ourselves to love deeper and longer and broader and stronger than ever. We are called to love the hell out of the world, because too many in our world are convinced that we are already in hell, that there is no God, there is no force of love to change the course of this world that seems hellbent. We are to love the hell out of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the stranger, the imprisoned. We are to love the hell out of the bored, the suicidal, the sexually confused. We are to love the hell out of the sad, the confused, the stuck and abused, the end-of-your-rope, the worn out and broke, the go-it-alone, the running from home, the righteously angry, the forsaken by family, the anxious and depressed (from Spencer LaJoye’s “Plowshare Prayer”). 

We are to love as if the person standing in front of us is Jesus…and here’s the deal, Jesus has already said that it is He! Because when we love the world like Jesus loves the world, when we love the world like we love Jesus, then hell has no power over us or over the world that is embraced in such love. 

And what will that look like? The passage from Revelation 7 on this All Saints’ Day captures it so beautifully that it almost takes my breath away: “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve God day and night within the temple; and the One who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” 

This then IS the GOOD NEWS! So here is my final word to this presbytery: GET OUT THERE AND LOVE THE HELL OUT OF THIS WORLD! In Jesus’ Name. Amen.