Comment from Ken I have not forgotten that on this walk we were going to talk about horses – that will come on or next walk.
Scripture: JAMES 2: 1 – 8
1My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
5Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
8If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
It is snowing so very hard at this hour (2:15 pm) that I knew we would be unable to get together for our walk. That is why I am writing this letter to you.
Today marks a very special day in my life. It ranks right up there with my birthday and my marriage. February 7th was the day that my ordination into the Christian ministry took place. Sitting here in my study with the snow flying outside is a perfect time to close my eyes and to remember that date, fifty-eight years ago.
My ordination took place on a Sunday evening in The Second Congregational Church of West Boxford, Massachusetts. The day had been warm, and there was a large puddle from the melting snow in front of the church driveway. Members of the volunteer fire department came with a pump to eliminate the wet driveway. You would not believe how nervous I was before that service. I had passed all the necessary documentation, and the council that was called to examine me had granted me the right to become a Christian minister. I was still rather tense for so many people had entered the church, and it was such an important event.
Many people had been invited. My father was one of nine children and my mother one of six so many aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as friends had been invited. When I entered the sanctuary, I found that it was filled; even the balcony was occupied. When we sang the first hymn, “God of Our Fathers Whose Almighty Hand”, it was a sound that seemed to lift the roof right off the church. The small choir sang an anthem I will never forget. It was entitled “My God and I”. It has been sung on many Sundays in churches I have served but never has it been sung with greater meaning than that night in West Boxford.
That night, I was presented with a Wollensac tape recorder – therefore my ordination was preserved for the future. In my mind, I can hear today all of the participants who spoke that evening. From Boston University School of Theology, there were Dr. Harrell Beck of the Old Testament Department and Samuel Hedrick from The Field Work. Dr. William Sahakian preached the sermon; he was the pastor of the church where I was hired as the youth director. My beloved pastor, Dr. Wallace Forgey, gave me the charge of what kind of a pastor I should be for Jesus Christ. Also present were the Congregational pastors of the area around West Boxford.
After the service, a member of the church, Henry Nason, a caterer, and his family put on a chicken potpie dinner in what was called Lincoln Hall. Never do I believe any pastor could have had a more beautiful and meaningful entrance to the Christian ministry than I had. When that night was over, I felt that I had been blessed by God, all the people who loved me, and the people I was presently serving as pastor. So on this snowy day, my Dale has planned a very special supper for us. We will think of the churches we have served and will share the happiness we have in each other’s professions.
The present day is so different. Since I retired over a year ago, I have only preached two times. Both times were at First Church in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. Instead of leading the service in the front of the church, I now worship at the back. It is a strange feeling not to be offering the worship service on a Sunday after doing such for so many years. But I am very fortunate for the pastor Gordon Crouch has welcomed me so warmly to his congregation. Every time he preaches, I carry away in my heart a message that will last me during the week. His preaching style is different from mine; he is quieter and more reserved. However, his sermons always leave me with new thoughts, new actions and sometimes I ask myself the question of why did I never preach on that particular passage of scripture or use that illustration?
Last Sunday when he preached from the Book of James, he spoke of favoritism. He told how in ancient Rome that status was everything. You could only accepted by some if you had all the right manners, wealth, education, clothes etc. Then he spoke of how Jesus went to those who were not looked upon with favor. He went to the poor, the socially unacceptable. Jesus took into His life and heart the very people many avoided. He even cared for the vilest of all in society and the most isolated the lepers. Then Pastor Gordon said what ignited my mind with the fire of excitement and wonder – that ALL, ALL people are welcome at the Table of our Lord. When we take communion, he continued – all are welcome – male and female, rich and poor, those in good health and those who are ill, the tax collector, honorable or dishonorable, young or old, beautiful or unbeautiful….
In the fifty-seven years of my preaching, I never thought of what a wonderful illustration it was of all people being welcome when those attending church took Holy Communion together. Looking out at the congregation, I always saw a people who were brave in facing the challenges of life, I saw the parents who worked hard to raise their children in a godly manner, I saw those who were elderly who were struggling with illness, they were all in my prayers each week – but the picture of all of those I have loved being at the same table in spite of the differences; that might have existed is a new thought to me. Like Miss Sargent said to us in the fourth grade: “You must learn something new each day”, Gordon reminded me of Miss Sargent’s saying; and I am grateful.
Can you see them coming to communion from all walks of life – all welcomed to be at Christ’s table? Some denominations have a closed communion where only members may receive the bread and the cup. Not so in my mind – no, I prefer the picture that was presented to me last Sunday – people of every station, every ethnic background, every age, those in good health or ill health, those who have stumbled and have come to be redeemed by Jesus – I could go on and on – what a beautiful picture – all of humanity loved by Jesus Christ and welcomed at His table. Have you come to His table? You are welcome there.
Prayer: Dear God, I thank you for this special day in my life and ask your blessing upon my ministry of so many years. And thank you God and bless those who continue the ministry of Jesus Christ teaching that all are brothers and sisters under Your love and guidance. Be with us in our daily lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Benediction: And now may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.