Sometimes the reading of scripture triggers images in my memory. In Acts chapter 21, we find a travelogue of sorts, as Paul is moving from place to place in ministry. Because of the action, there are accounts of several hellos and goodbyes.
When our days there were ended, we left and proceeded on our journey; and all of them, with wives and children, escorted us outside the city. There we knelt down on the beach and prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we greeted the believers and stayed with them for one day.
When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. Acts 21:5-7, 17-18
Here and there, Paul was greeted by brothers and sisters in Christ. And the farewells were just as important.
As I read this passage, I pictured in my mind some similar occasions. I remember clearing immigration and walking into the main lobby at the airport in Tegucigalpa, and being enthusiastically greeted by Honduran friends who had bid us a heartfelt farewell months or years before. I remember saying goodbye to this congregation when Teresa and I moved our family to Seffner, and how good it was to see so many old friends when we returned to First Pres. eight years later. I remember the joy of meeting new friends here who were more than just friends as we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
There’s something special, something holy, in the hellos and goodbyes in our family of faith.
Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian minister and author, shares this definition of “good-bye” in his book Whistling in the Dark, “It was a long while ago that the words God be with you disappeared into the word good-bye, but every now and again some trace of them still glimmers through.”
We have the opportunity each day to greet and send one another off with the wishes of God’s blessing. Let’s take advantage of those holy moments.
Thank You, God, for the hellos and goodbyes in our daily lives. And thank You for the people in our lives who help us share Your love and grace, through Christ, who makes us brothers and sisters. Amen.