I don’t know what prompted it, but I have been calling to mind lately the beautiful people with whom I have served over the years. It might be that one of our members lost a friend dear to her last week and she is grieving. It might be the beautiful fresh snow on the gravestones in our church yard. My eyes kept being drawn to them while in the pulpit. It might just be I have felt the pangs of missing them lately. Sometimes I reflect on them. Long gone, but making this church great when they lived. And now they are in company of the saints in heaven, praising God and living forever in his kingdom.
There are so many. In my first church, no one is left who was there when I was the minister. There are many still living but they have moved away.
In my second church, just a few are still there. I rejoice that the young families who joined when I was pastor are now key leaders. I was amused when I met the new young pastor and we talked a little about the parsonage. The parsonage had very steep hills and I asked him how he liked mowing them – it was a real workout. “Oh,” he replied, “I don’t mow the lawn. Robert comes over and mows it.” I laughed. Robert was a man in his early twenties who joined when I was pastor there. My successor there, Pastor Kyle, obviously is smarter than I am, though those years and those steep hills were good for me. Just an aside, one of our young men, Rob, now takes care of the parsonage lawn here in Millstone.
I think of the faithful people who have gone to be with the Lord. I miss them like crazy. They enriched my life. They were the engine room of the church, moved by the Spirit to serve and worship and be in communion.
I came across these few verses from the first chapter of Galatians this morning: “13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. 14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles,,,,”
What struck me is that Paul says he was set apart before he was born to have Jesus revealed to him and given a purpose for which he was set apart, namely to proclaim Jesus among the Gentiles.
Paul discovered the purpose of his life. When he controlled his own life, Paul was a murderous persecutor of the church. When God took charge of Paul’s life, he became the church’s greatest promoter. The story of the apostles Paul is some story!
What struck me was that God gave Paul a purpose. People often wonder what God’s plan is for their lives. But Paul is offering another way of looking at it. Whatever the plan may be, our lives have a purpose.
Broadly put, the purpose of each of our lives is to glorify God through the church of his Son and to receive the benefits of faithful living. At the root of our faith is that we have relinquished ownership of ourselves and now realize that our lives belong to Jesus Christ. Each of us has a story that is “some story!”
Right now in church we are living in the midst of the saints who will some day not be here. Decades from now our church will be filled with people unknown to us today. It is beautiful to recall those from the past who worshipped and served here, in 1766, in 1876, in 1865, in 1917, in 1945, in 2020. God has given us a purpose, like Paul in word and deed to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to bear witness to kingdom of God.
Paul opens his letter to the Galatians calling his time “the present evil age.” He writes, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,”4 who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Whether or not you would agree that ours is also a “present evil age,” of this we are certain – that God’s kingdom is not fully here yet. The best is yet to come. The structures of this world will be no longer when God’s throne is established at last and forever.
We who love Jesus know what is coming and that it will be the best beyond imagining. And God has given us a precious treasure for the journey as we yearn for his coming – each other. Jesus gave us a new commandment, that we love one another.
Please pray with me. “Dear Lord, thank you for calling us to be your church. Thanks for giving our lives a purpose – witnessing to your Son. Thank you for our companions in the way, the saints if church past, present and future. Thank you consecrating us, though we are unworthy. As Jesus taught us we pray, ‘Holy be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.’”