"And now I commend you to God…" When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship. - Acts 20:17-38
Nobody likes goodbyes, and we go to many lengths to soften or avoid them. A colleague leaves or a friend moves, and we say it's not goodbye because we promise to have lunch, or to write, or to Facebook. Sometimes we avoid the moment altogether: even though I barely knew her, I once hid in the bathroom for half an hour at a coworker's goodbye party to avoid the moment when she actually left.
When Paul says goodbye to the Ephesians, he gets it right. He remembers what they did together, he tells them what they mean to him, he commends them to God. The word "goodbye" is a contraction of "God be with ye." Saying it is a reminder that even when we're apart, God is with us both. It's an act of faith that if God is with you and with me, then somehow we're still together, and that in the end we'll join each other at a reunion in God's heart. It's a promise that even when I can't be with you, God will be, and that that will be sufficient.
Sometime soon you'll have to say goodbye to somebody. It's worth doing well, for it's all about faith.
Oh God, all these partings are hard. When I have to say goodbye, help me to cling fast to the faith that you are with us always, and that all of us will one day be reunited again in you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.