Comment from Ken: I hope during our walk today you will call to minds someone
who you met in the church that brought love and the meaning of friendship into
Scripture Matthew 14:25-33
25Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26And
when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying,
“It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good
cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28And Peter answered Him and said,
“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of
the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30But when he
saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning
to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
31And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught
him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got
into the boat, the wind ceased. 33Then those who were in the boat
came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Good morning. What a beautiful morning for a walk. The morning is cool,
the sun is shining, and what could be better than that except having a good friend
to walk with you. So you make the morning perfect. How are you this morning?
Hope all is well with you and that your day will be a bright and happy one.
Summer is here, and you would begin to know it here in New Hampshire
outside of Concord for traffic on familiar routes is increasing. On Friday and
Sunday evenings, you have to realize that route 93 is going to be congested near
the city of Concord and Route 89. Living here makes traffic easier for we know
all of the side roads so that we can avoid the traffic going north and south.
Yesterday, I was coming home on Route 89 from near New London when
at the side of the road on a grassy hillside I saw two fawns. That makes it
complete now for I have in the last few months seen a buck, a doe, and now twin
fawns. They were beautiful and stood less than three feet tall. Their mother was
nowhere to be seen. How I hoped that they would not go near the highway but
would disappear into the woods. It just makes your heart feel a special beat when
you witness the wonder of the world of nature.
During this time of year, I especially love looking up at the sky and seeing
the clouds that form. It makes pulmonary rehab that much better for when I am in
that exercise area, I can look out the shaded windows and see all the shapes of
the clouds that float by. There goes a lamb, and there is a dragon, and there is a
pig. Do you do that in the summer? Do you take time to look up at the heavens
and see the forms and shapes of clouds? You don’t? Well that’s too bad; you
ought to try it. You will be amazed with a little imagination what animals and
objects you will see.
Where I have more time to reflect now that I am no longer in an active
church ministry, I thought I might take you on a journey to some of the churches I
served over the past years. My first call was to West Boxford Congregational
Church in Massachusetts. I was still in seminary when I was called to that
church, but I was to finish my studies at Boston University School of Theology in
February. It was wonderful place to begin my pastoral ministry. It was a church of
around ninety members in a growing suburban setting. It was still what we would
consider farm country but that was rapidly changing with the movement of
families to the outlying areas. It was a time of growth, and the church I was called
to serve was welcoming new families. All of that, however, was not an easy
happening. There were the “old timers” in West Boxford, and then those who
were considered “new comers.” Of course, I was a very much a newcomer. In
time, I learned that to be an old timer meant you had to be born while living in
This really came home to me when I mentioned a deacon who was doing
so much for the church, and I praised him to an old timer. “Well,” he said, “I want
you to know he is a relative newcomer.” I happened to look up when Ronnie had
joined the church – it had been twenty-three years before. That is the way it can
be in New England, but when you are in trouble or you need help, you find those
old timer New Englanders are the first ones to come to your aid.
One of the farmers of that community was Henry. He was a farmer who
had lived in West Boxford all of his life. He had several children and a wonderful
wife with a Biblical name. She stood by her husband in all of his endeavors.
When he felt farming was not supporting his family correctly, he began a catering
business which was very successful. Devoted to the church, he was the director
of the young people, had been a deacon, and could always be called upon to
help out during a church function.
He was a stocky man and very strong. I remember his son recalling a fire
his dad fought in a residence in the community while he served as a volunteer
fireman. He told me I should have seen his dad with an ax attack the pine
paneling in that home to stop the fire. As a carpenter, all I could think of was how
I had carefully installed pine paneling in a house that was being build in North
Hampton, New Hampshire while I was a student in seminary. I could just picture
Henry attacking that pine paneling, and it made my carpenter-self shudder.
He was a very good sport, and I somewhat challenged that. It was my
responsibility to take care of the youth group work, and I think Henry missed that
challenge in the church. There were times when I was in trouble over the youth
group, especially with some of the games we played. One of them was passing
an orange from under your neck to another person under his or her neck. It was
thought by some that the new minister was promoting “necking.” Another game
was deemed equally bad when I had the young people pass a lifesaver on a
toothpick that you held in your teeth to another person who had an empty
toothpick in his or her teeth. It was really fun to watch, but then I was promoting
One of the times when this pastor was not too diplomatic was at a Harvest
Supper held in Lincoln Hall across from the church. It was a wonderful supper
with all the fresh produce from the farms. Some of the produce was sold at the
supper to support the church. As I stated, it was still a wonderful farm community.
After the supper, the head of the event planned kitchen games. One of
those games was to arm wrestle. Guess who the young minister was pitted
against. Now back then, I was working building houses with my cousin’s husband
and his brothers. It was my job to strap ceilings with a regular hammer, to carry
cement forms, to mix cement and to lug two by twelves’ sixteen feet long. My
arms at that time of my life were very strong. When Henry and I took to the table,
it was a struggle, both of our faces were red, and our arms were shaking. The
strong farmer’s arm gave way first much to the surprise of all watching and even
Henry. He moved from the table not very happy. However, I do not believe he
would have respected me if I had “tossed” the game to win his favor. Now all of
this happened in the autumn of my call.
In February of that next year, I was to be ordained in the West Boxford
Church, one of the most memorable nights of my life. There were at least two
hundred people at my ordination. Henry volunteered to cater a chicken pot pie
dinner at the Lincoln Hall after the ordination. Henry gave that supper to me – the
one who had beaten him in the arm wrestling contest and who had taken over his
youth group. How I grew to love him, and how he lives in my memory.
One of my fondest memories is of Henry, his wife Ruth, and the first
Easter in my first church ministry. There was a hill behind Henry’s home, and on
top of that hill, he and his children had placed a cross. We church people walked
up that hill on a chilly Easter morning to see the sun rise and to hold a worship
service in which, of course, Henry took part. I do not remember if the sun came
out from behind a cloudy sky, but this I do remember: going down that wonderful
hill after thanking God for His beloved Son’s resurrection and having what was
an egg mcmuffin before egg mcmuffins were a popular item. We stood around as
Henry cooked them and passed them out to us. What a joyful day, and what a
warm and loving fellowship.
Now I can assure you of this – Henry is in God’s heaven. In so many ways
with his impulsiveness, his strength, and his strong faith, he reminded me of
Peter whom our Lord so deeply loved. Henry would have gotten out of the boat to
walk on the water with Jesus. Yep, I believe that farmer, that chef, that dedicated
church deacon is right there in eternity. I pray that God will grant me a place in
Heaven and one of the people I hope to see in a short time is Henry. I wonder if
he will shout, “ Come on in, Ken, how about another chance at arm wrestling?”
God bless the Henry’s of this world and their love of their Christian faith.
Prayer: Dear God help us to hold fast to the memories of our Christian friends;
may they hear us speak of them in the halls of Heaven. Thank you for the
fellowship belonging to a church brings to us. We can find You, God, as
individuals, but how wonderful it is when we find you as a community. Bless the
Christian Church and our fellowship one with another in an age when many have
forgotten the love that is found in a church. Touch their hearts; bring them back
into the fold, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thank you for walking with me this week, and “May the Lord watch between me
and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.”