“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now. 7a It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart….” I Philippians 1:3-5, 7a
Yesterday I was honored to preach the homecoming service at Ruffin UMC. This was the church I served while going to seminary at Duke. We spent five years there – stayed an extra year after school to allow our son to graduate from high school.
I am not sure that homecomings really meant all that much to me early on in life or in my career. I guess it is perhaps because I didn’t understand their importance to us as a community. Now that I am older, retired, and have been in ministry for 40 years, I understand and appreciate homecoming celebrations. It is a celebration of a time you spent together, perhaps a time that changed your life, but especially the people who surrounded you as you shared that time together. So we go back to remember as we walk those paths again with friends we have made and lives that have touched us with the love of God. We tell stories, laugh, maybe even brush back a tear. But we travel back to another time and appreciate time shared together.
Yesterday I spoke to a congregation about a congregation that cared for and nurtured me, a young struggling student pastor, and helped to prepare me for ministry and sent me on my way to serve others. Their guidance and nurture was a gift from God which the Ruffin Church did with such compassion and care. I had been at other churches who didn’t give a hoot if I became a good minister or not, who really didn’t care all that much about us. But Ruffin was a special church that accepted its calling to nurture young people preparing for ministry.
There may not be any rewards or recognition for what you have done here on earth, but God knows your heart is filled with compassion. He knows all the young ones you have tried to help prepare for ministry. And in God’s heart you are loved, you are appreciated, you are a great church.
Thank you Ruffin UMC for loving us, caring for us, and nurturing us in the direction of being a good servant of Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord, thank you for the people of the Ruffin Church, and people like them in churches all over the world, who take on the thankless and some time troublesome task of preparing the young for ministry. I thank you for them, O Lord, for they changed my life and blessed me for all the work ahead, in and through Jesus. Amen.
Grace and Peace