This past weekend was Memorial Day. A day in which we give thanks for those who, in the words of President Lincoln, “gave the last full measure of devotion.” Sons and daughters who went to serve their country and never came home but were lost on the field of battle. On Memorial Day, it is indeed right for us to give thanks for those who died defending the rights of others, who served selflessly, and commit ourselves again to the work of peace and justice so war may end and the vision of Isaiah 2 might come to being.
Giving thanks for those who have gone before is part of the liturgy of the church. Each week in our prayers we remember the saints who have claimed their eternal promise given freely in baptism. It is a vital part of our worship and our life together as church. This past Sunday (May 28) we gave thanks for the saints who 50 years ago founded the congregation of Redeemer, Greenville (Pastor Debra Leone), and for those who have continued that ministry. As part of the liturgy, we recommitted ourselves to their statement of purpose.
“Our renewal in Christ and with others begins with PURPOSE:
Spreading God’s Love to ALL people
Our Guiding Principles are:
Jesus is Lord and Savior, Pray for and with each other
Stay focused on the future and God’s mission
Grow and be accountable, Speak the truth in love
Spreading God’s Love to ALL people”
As part of that commitment to ministry, the congregation has recently taken on a new task, providing supplies for Foster Families in Greenville. This ministry came about because a family joined the congregation who was committed to foster care. This small parish caught this mission, built it into their purpose, and now are moving forward with an amazing ministry that includes ecumenical partners, as well as their ELCA partners in the Eastern Conference of NT-NL. Powerful gospel ministry.
I give thanks today for the saints of Redeemer and pray for 50 more years of living into this purpose.
We also give thanks for those who are yet still with us but whose ministries have meant so very much for the life of the church. On Sunday, May 21, I was honored to preach and preside at the re-dedication service for the memorial windows at Mt. Olive, Dallas (Pastor Deb McCann). Just about a year ago, a frustrated, mentally ill, individual, a neighbor of the congregation, took out his frustrations by throwing rocks through many of the church’s historic stained glass windows. For an urban congregation in the Fair Park neighborhood, this sort of vandalism was both an emotional and financial challenge. Yet the community, along with partners, responded. The windows have been repaired.
In addition, during the service it was announced that the congregation is entering into a relationship with a community service organization to convert their education wing into a drop-in center for at-risk teens. This partnership also gave the opportunity to give a new name to the building, The Mark and Donna Herbener Center, honoring their former pastor and NT-NL’s first Bishop, the Rev. Mark Herbener and his spouse Donna. What a wonderful way to honor these saints who gave of themselves for the work of the gospel, racial justice, and equality in Dallas.
I was honored that Mark and Donna and many of the other founding officers of the NT-NL from 1987 came to Briarwood on Wednesday, the 17th. There we worshipped together, ate lunch, and had the opportunity for them to see the amazing work done at Briarwood and the completed Center for Mission.
We give thanks for all who have gone before us in mission. Those who have died in the faith and in service to their country and church and also those who continue as living stones to remind us of our mission. To share God’s love with all people.