Hellos and goodbyes

We have a weekend of reunions ahead of us...

Huw Williams | 17:18, Thursday 27 February 2014 | Turin, Italy 

We have a weekend of reunions ahead of us. Old friends are in town. One a colleague of Ali from her last job in the UK, the other an old friend of ICT - someone who grew up in the church and who is now away studying in Bible college. We are looking forward to catching up with these friends, to hear what God is doing in their lives and ministry since we last saw them.

Here in the church we seem to be saying either 'hello' to new friends or 'goodbye' to old ones almost every week

But even now before they arrive, we know the weekend will go by all too quickly and we will be saying goodbye again all too soon. When you stop to think about it, life is full of hellos and goodbyes - most lovers know something of the "sweet sorrow" of parting from their beloved, while other people suffer goodbyes with nothing to sweeten their sorrow. Here in the church we seem to be saying either 'hello' to new friends or 'goodbye' to old ones almost every week - even last night in our Bible study we were praying for brothers and sisters who were about to travel for work or to see family and we look forward to seeing them again very soon - with a few more thousand miles on the clock.

Jesus himself knows all about this. In taking his leave from his disciples before going to the cross he comforts them with the certainty of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-16), and at the same time he looks forward to the time when those the Father has given to him will be with him where he is (John 17:24).

It seems to me that there's something about this long sequence of hellos and goodbyes which threads itself through our lives, that keeps us looking forward. Because ultimately, for the people of God, that is our destination, isn't it? Who of us hasn't said goodbye to a loved one and straight away begun counting the days until we see them again? That finds its greater reality in our greater future; again, who hasn't found huge comfort in the grief and loss of loved ones in anticipating the joy of those glorious reunions to come? And the greatest wonder of our final destination is the most important meeting of all, with the Prince of heaven himself - and in his invitation to share eternity with him and his Father in the love of the Holy Spirit - in a new heaven and a new earth - a world without end, a world without goodbyes.

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