See how this area has changed in the past ten years! Traffic lights have multiplied - how many were there ten years ago? The bridge across the Maroochy River has been completed, with the Sunshine Motorway now taking you to Noosa - without any toll! The Sands shopping centre has expanded to become the Sunshine Plaza. To compete, the shopping centre across the way was enlarged to become the Big Top. North Buderim and Buderim Meadows were only beginning, but nobody had heard of Glenfields and Chancellor Park. Kuluin School had begun its rapid growth. But there were no Mountain Creek or Chancellor Primary Schools and no Mountain Creek High School. Ten years ago the controversy had hardly begun on where the Sunshine Coast University should be located.
During the same period the world at large has changed in remarkable ways. None of us could foresee the collapse of communism in Europe - nor, when it had happened, the instability this would cause in many areas. We knew about the EEC, but there had been no Maastricht Treaty, no European Union and no Euro. We still don't understand the Southern Oscillation Index and El Niño and how they have such an effect on our weather, but ten years ago we hadn't heard of them. Computer technology has continued major growth and change. It is one of the few parts of society where you seem to be offered more for less. There is a rush to buy them - partly because the Internet has become such a major storehouse of information (good and bad) and Email offers a faster and cheaper means of global communication. And - talking about communication - television regularly brings into our lounge images and topics that we previously avoided and censored out at the news stands.
Some changes creep up on us unawares - we are shocked to realise they are there. Others occur suddenly and we have the opportunity to consider and reflect, to accept or reject, to resist or acquiesce.
Our local and world communities have changed greatly. Yet for all of us there comes, periodically, the need for farewells and for new beginnings. Farewells are never easy. They are always tinged with the loss of relationships that are familiar and valued - and the realisation that much more could have been accomplished.
For Alison and me, this is such a time. Ten years of ministry in this area - eight of them in the Maroochy Parish, the past two more exclusively in the Buderim Church - are coming to an end. Much has been accomplished, but we leave an unfinished task - there is much more still to be done. And we leave behind many friendships and associations in the Uniting Church and beyond. This has been the period during which the principle and practice of co-operative Religious Education has been implemented in all schools in the area - as well as the period in which Maroochydore, Mooloolaba and Buderim Uniting congregations have separated and in which Buderim Church is on the verge of major property extensions.
During this period, our family life has changed too. My mother died in 1992. Alison's parents moved into Immanuel Gardens and now, at 88 and 90, are in more fragile health. Two of our children have graduated from QUT - one as a computer programmer, the other as an optometrist. Four of our children have married. Two grandchildren have been born. Now, as we are about to leave, our youngest has just completed High School and is getting ready for tertiary studies. For the first time in 33 years, we won't have children living at home with us.
We are moving to a very different situation - to the Burdekin and the rural communities of Ayr and Home Hill, to an area dominated by sugar cane and four sugar mills (including one at Giru), together with mangoes (more are produced than in Bowen) and other crops. The area is in the dry tropics and very dependent on irrigation.
There are two congregations meeting in three churches - Giru being regarded as part of the Ayr congregation. For many years they have been separate parishes with their own minister, coming together more recently as the Burdekin Parish and more recently still with one minister. They are now considering whether, under the new Uniting Church regulations, they should be one congregation meeting in two locations, or linked congregations.
The topic for this morning (crafted by Stewart Beaman) has been advertised as "Farewell, Adieu and 'Bye". It does more than reflect the F.A.B. theme of our "Fellowship at Breakfast". These three words were never meant to be casual. Let's look at them more carefully.
"Farewell" comes from "fare you well" - may you fare well, may all go well for you. And that is our wish for you, our heart-felt desire for you. This Breakfast (formerly a Men's Breakfast) has fared variously over the past ten years. It has great potential. We look forward to hearing that it is accomplishing a great deal in the Kingdom of God. The Churches of this area (not just Uniting) face great challenges amid a diverse and growing population. We expect to be hearing about significant growth as you pray and work together to bring the gospel to this community. And as individual Christians, you face the need to "continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3.18). "Farewell" is our desire for you.
"Adieu" - it can slip off the tongue so lightly, and, in its anglicised pronunciation ("a-dew"), loses its significance. The French "adieu" and the Spanish "adios" both mean "to God." Our "farewell" is not just a wish, a hope, a heart-felt desire, but a committing of you and of the work of the Kingdom in this place to God. Inevitably, our prime commitment of time, effort and prayer will be to what is happening in our different localities. Yet, across the large distances, I believe we need a network of prayer. Consider what Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians. He has been writing about their response to the Good News - "For this reason, ever since I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you. I remember you in my prayers and ask the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you the Spirit, who will make you wise and reveal God to you, so that you will know him. I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, and how very great is his power at work in us who believe" (Eph. 1.15-19a). "Adieu" - we commit you to the Lord himself.
"Goodbye" comes from "God be with ye". It has become so disconnected from its origins that I can understand those who insist that Christians don't say "goodbye" but "see you later" - since we will never face ultimate separation. But our prayer for you is that you will know that God is with you as he has promised. There are a number of farewells recorded in the Bible. Moses reminded the people, "People of Israel, no god is like your God... God has always been your defence; his eternal arms are your support... Israel, how happy you are! There is no one like you, a nation saved by the Lord. The Lord himself is your shield and your sword, to defend you and give you victory" (Deut. 33.26,27,29). Paul said to the Ephesian elders, "Watch, then, and remember that with many tears, day and night, I taught every one of you for three years. And now I commend you to the care of God and to the message of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the blessings God has for all his people" (Acts 20.31-32). And the parting words of Jesus, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age" (Mt. 28.18-20). Did you notice a difference with Jesus' farewell message? Unlike Moses and Paul, Jesus was promising to continue to be with them - now unseen, by his Spirit. From next month we will no longer "be here". We may visit from time to time, but our relationship with you and with this area will be different. Our "goodbye" is in the confidence that the God to whom we commit you will be true to his promise - will continue to be with you.
On February 11th 1861, Abraham Lincoln left Springfield Illinois for his inaugural journey to Washington, D.C. To his neighbours and friends he gave this farewell address:
My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
I am not likening our situation (or our historical significance!) to that of Lincoln. However, there are elements of what he said on that occasion that express well the intent of our own "Farewell, adieu and 'bye!"
© Peter J. Blackburn, Fellowship at Breakfast, 4 December 1999