It was Stewardship Sunday at First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois. My friend, Sarah, asked me to give a, ‘Minute For Stewardship talk,’ and so I…did not know how to say no…to my friend. Actually, this year marked the second year that I had been requested to speak…and…thus…I endeavored to understand what the Lord would have me say? And, so, there is a Stewardship Campaign annually in the First Presbyterian Church and it a a wonderful time to remind ourselves of what the church means to each of us on a personal level.
Our family experienced a sweet outpouring of love and support from our fellow congregants during MJ’s convalescence following her spinal surgery. Aaron and Jonathon and I were on pins and needles last December the 3rd when her surgery transpired and the demonstrated care and concern from the people of our church was the most that I have ever experienced in 50 years of being a christian! One of our friends, Ro, asked for updates as the surgery was progressing and, Lisa, along with so many others brought us the most delicious meals…and stayed and visited with us as MJ healed and got on her feet! I really felt like that I was surrounded by a large family…that cared deeply about us!
Our pastor, Kerry, announced that he was writing a play for our congregation to perform…and I thought, ‘Very Interesting.’ as the comedian, Artie Johnson often said on the 1960’s television show, Laugh In. When the theatrical performance took place…I marveled at the coming together of our little churches congregation…and I had not witnessed such an event during my time as a Presbyterian!
Our church is the most actively involved in outreach that I have been a member of. From; Meals On Wheels, a Daycare and a Preschool, a Diaper Bank, working in the Warming Center for the homeless in Carbondale, to an outreach to provide the poor with money to wash and dry their laundry at Laundromats, to members traveling to Africa to assist in digging wells! And, that only scratches the surface of what First Presbyterian in Carbondale is involved in!
As I listen to my brothers and sisters in the faith…I realize that I am in the presence of people who love God and demonstrate that love by loving their neighbor. I think of siting in my red Toyota Camry and musing on how much I was working around the church, during my time on the Stewardship Committee. As I sat, stewing in my own juices, I noticed Clark Ashby slowly exit his automobile and walk around to the trunk of the car and retrieve a tool box…and then painstakingly proceed into our church to perform some necessary work….
Jonathon and I were ushers last Sunday and as we stood at the door to the Sanctuary of our church, I could not help but notice our members, some of whom are in their nineties, walk, haltingly, into the church that they had called home for much of their lives.
Some say that the church is becoming out of fashion…but I think not! Rather, the church is changing…but it’s love and outreach and succor to the poor and hungry and it’s help for the hurting and downtrodden…will always be a vital and living institution…in a sad and suffering world!
‘Then he said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ I Kings 19: 11-13. NKJV