There is a story told about a day in 1953 when a large crowd of reporters and city officials had gathered at a Chicago railroad station to greet the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner. A few minutes after the train had come to a stop, a tall man with bushy hair and a large mustache descended from the train. Cameras flashed, and city officials stepped forward with hands out-stretched to greet the famous guest. Various others stepped close and began to tell the man how honored they were to meet him.
The guest of honor politely thanked them and then, looking over their heads, asked if he could be excused for a moment. He quickly walked through the surprised crowd until he reached the side of an elderly African-American woman who was struggling with two large suitcases. He reached over, picked up the bags, and with a smile, escorted the woman to her bus. After helping get her settled, he wished her a safe journey. He returned to his greeting party and apologized to the waiting crowd by saying, “Sorry to have kept you waiting.”
The man was Albert Schweitzer, the famous scholar and missionary doctor, who spent his life helping the poor in Africa. His actions that day in Chicago made an impact, too. One member of the crowd who had observed Schweitzer’s act of kindness said to a reporter standing next to him, “That’s the first time I ever saw a sermon walking.”
That story invites all of us to ask ourselves what kind of sermon we’re preaching (and walking) with our lives? James 2:17 tells us clearly that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” I John 4:12 makes a similar point when it says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” In a culture filled with division and angry political rhetoric, most of us are well aware that God calls us to be the hands and feet of God in our community and world. This week, let us ask God to open our eyes to the many needs around us in order that we might through large and small acts of kindness reflect the love of God in our daily lives. As God’s people, we have both an opportunity and responsibility to let others see in us “a sermon walking.”
This Sunday, we will again participate in the Blessing of the Students. During the service, we will have a time when we invite our children, youth, and college students to stand at the front of the sanctuary. We will also invite our teachers and educators to stand, and then we will participate in a prayer of blessing and dedication for all of these beginning a new school year. This is a significant time of transition for our students and educators, and they need our support, encouragement, and prayers. At the end of the service, adults will have the opportunity to take a card with the name of a student and serve as that student’s special prayer partner for the upcoming school year. There will be a table set up in the vestibule and in the children’s hallway where you can sign up to be a prayer partner. We will have some suggestions for those who take a name so each youth and child will know which adult is praying for him or her. I invite you to consider prayerfully whether you would be willing to make the commitment to be a prayer partner for one of our students.
Many of you have heard me talk about how much I value being part of an intergenerational church. There are many churches these days that have focused their outreach on one particular age group (usually young adults), and as a result, the majority of members/participants come from similar age groups. While it can be a blessing to be able to interact with many people your own age at church and to share common experiences, I believe the family of God is strengthened when we can learn from different generations in addition to those who are at the same life stage. It is such a treat for me to see our older members interacting with, supporting, and encouraging our youth and children. I love it when our kids can find ways to serve our older adults and when all age groups can learn from the perspective and experiences of differing generations. As the body of Christ, we all need each other, and I am grateful that Hope Valley continues to seek out ways to encourage fellowship, discipleship, and ministry with all ages.
I believe there is much to celebrate at Hope Valley these days and hope you will join me in continuing to pray for God to shape us as His disciples and empower us for ministry in our community.