Common belief identifies members of God’s family. And common affection unites them. Paul gives this relationship rule the church: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” The apostle plays the wordsmith here, bookending the verse with fraternal-twin terms. He begins with philostorgos (philos means friendly; storgos means family love) and concludes with Philadelphia (phileo means tender affection; adelphia means brethren). An awkward but accurate translation of the verse might be “Have a friend/family devotion to each other in a friend/family sort of way.” If Paul doesn’t get us with the first adjective, he catches us with the second. In both he reminds us: the church is God’s family.I already had this kind of thing on my mind before this showed up on my radar. I’ve been thinking about my family a lot lately. Mostly because today is the one year anniversary of the day my Dad took his leave of this world for heaven.
You didn’t pick me. I didn’t pick you. You may not like me. I may not like you. But since God picked and likes us both, we are family.”
--Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life.
There are many days when there is nothing I want more than to join my Dad. No, I’m not suicidal. I just get tired of keeping up all the requirements necessary to survive and wish somebody else would do them for me for a while and let me coast for a day or two. It’s exhausting to be human, especially one who’s trying to live right on the straight and narrow. Right now Dad’s not worrying about stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office, or the cable bill, or what on earth to cook for dinner that will help me feel better about stepping on the doctor’s scale. I long for days like that when I won’t have to waste a single brain cell on any of those things.
While I no longer have my Dad, or anybody else to do the hard stuff for me, I do still have my family.
And while I still have a mother, a father-in-law, two sisters, one sister-in-law, three brothers-in-law, and several nieces and nephews here on this earth, you, First Baptist Church, are my family too.
I think sometimes my blood relatives don’t get that, that the church is my family.
Sometimes, FBC, I don’t think you understand fully either that YOU are family to me.
When we came to FBC we left everything behind to follow God’s leadership and come here to serve Him and you. We left friends, family, careers, and anything else you can think of. We were hesitant at first. We put the search committee off for six months because we just weren’t sure. But then, once we realized that if we wanted to do the will of God, we had no other choice. If we were going to leave the choice up to God, then this was it. We were all in. And we still are.
That was 15 years ago this week.
The children that were newborns at the time are in high school now. The kids that were in high school then have children of their own now.
On one of our first Sundays here, Scott sang with an accompaniment track. It was uncharted territory for you at the time. It was obvious because even though it was a split track and the demo voice should have been turned down, Scott ended up singing Somebody’s Prayin’ right along with Ricky Scaggs all the way through the song. Two new sound boards later, I think we’ve finally made it over that learning curve. This past Christmas we did a program that involved people from 16 different churches. All the music was on accompaniment tracks and we have DVD video recordings of it!
Not too many Sundays after that Ricky Scaggs sing along, Scott led the choir out of the choir loft and out front on the stage to sing I Will Sing Praises. There was hand-clapping to the beat of the music from the choir, and applause afterwards from the congregation. That made some of you uncomfortable. For some, it was a turning point that led you to go somewhere else to church.
The Beacons Quartet got together and southern gospel music made an emergence at FBC.
We added a projector and a screen to the sanctuary and media presentations in the services. Some of you still aren’t comfortable with that. That’s OK; for those of you who can’t put down the hymnal, we will still give you page numbers.
Every single summer we’ve been on an adventure together. We went on the Good News Stampede, up to Mt. Extreme, down to an Ocean Odyssey, we became Truth Trackers and Amazon Outfitters, investigated a Great Kingdom Caper, took a Rickshaw Rally and a Ramblin’ Road Trip, lived on the Arctic Edge, cheered at Game Day Central, made our way to Outrigger Island, went down under to Boomerang Express, and out west to the Saddle Ridge Ranch. Some of the VBS songs still ring in my head every now and then (“We are Truth Trackers, in search of answers...” Now I’m going to be humming that all day). We weren’t here for 2011 VBS because it was the same week as our 25th wedding anniversary. We are grateful and thankful that you allowed us that respite from VBS. That week changed our lives in more ways than you’ll ever know.
In 2000, we rang in the new millennium together. Remember when you heard the word “Y2K” every single day?
In 2002, you prayed us through an uncertain time and a craniotomy. Later that year, some of our choir members sang for Hollywood in the movie Radio. What a memorable Christmas season that was.
In 2005, you prayed us through another craniotomy. While Scott was home recuperating with a shaved and stapled head, you asked the pastor to leave. You asked a new one to lead you in 2006.
In 2009, um, well. It was one of the toughest years for me personally. A game changer.
In 2010 you asked us to leave. Then you changed your mind and told us not to leave.
In 2011 you buried your minister of education.
In 2012…who knows???
When we first came to FBC, trepid as we were, we thought we’d be lucky to stay 5 years. I have no explanation, except for GOD, as to how that has turned into 15. Looking back, it seems that it only got more difficult with every year, not easier. So, I can only assume that this next year will be no exception.
The one thing I know for sure is that God is faithful. How else could we have made it this long, this far? Maybe “this long” is not what or who you wanted. Maybe we wanted our “this far” to take us somewhere else. Whatever the case, we have made it this far and we are thankful. In these 15 years together, there have been successes and failures. We’ve been blessed by your faithfulness. We beg forgiveness and mercy for our shortcomings, and we offer it to you.
Because God chose you for us, we love you.
Because God picked us for you, we love you.
Because we love God, we love you.
We love you, First Baptist. Here me say it loud and clear. We love you and want what God wants for you.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17: 26-28