What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8
MESSAGE “Next Steps on the Walk” Rev. James Renfrew
Just before I began my work here in Byron, in the summer of 2000, I was helping my parents move from their big home to a small apartment. We went through each room in the house, examining furniture, knick-knacks, clothing, kitchenware and books. I would hold up an object, and I would ask my key question. Keep it or not? Not easy to do this, but it had to be done and we did it. In the basement my Dad had hundreds of tools. We decided that they would be donated to Habitat for Humanity. As I was going through all of those tools I picked up this huge monkey wrench and my Dad casually mentioned that it once belonged to his father. It was the only thing in the house that came from my grandfather Renfrew. “This one I’m keeping”, I told him. And here it is, my grandfather Luther Renfrew’s monkey wrench, one hundred years old now. I wonder if he ever thought that of the hundreds of things that he owned and cherished, the one thing in his grandson’s hands would be this monkey wrench?
It’s hard to preserve history as it happens, because we don’t know what will be meaningful or valuable to the generations that follow. I used to collect comic books when I was a boy. I had boxes and boxes of them. When I returned home for Thanksgiving my first year of college they were all gone! My Mom threw them out, figuring that they were worthless. They would have been worth thousands of dollars today, but they’re gone. My history was her clutter!
It’s not so surprising that our church building, does not hold many treasures from the past, because as the years went by the old stuff was gradually removed as clutter. Just about the only things that remain are our session records. These minutes are a good source of basic information, such as the names of the ministers who served here, the dates when people became members, the names of those baptized and married, the cost of various building projects, but way too many of the old stories about people have disappeared. Even old photos of them are very hard to find. I wish I knew a lot more about the people who created this church, their hopes and dreams, the challenges they faced in a frontier settlement, what their children were like, and what treasures they found in their Bibles.
I wonder if, 50 or 100 years from now, people will know much about us? What stories will remain about great youth mission trips that shaped our young people as faithful, smart, generous, and open-hearted. Will there be stories about Marie, Ruth, Bill and Sue and the dogs they bring to church? Will there still be stories told about our choir, our talented singers and musicians, about organists Liz and Laurence? Who will remember Dale, an older man with Downs, and how he had the biggest smile in the universe on the morning he was baptized here? Who will remember George dressed in his duck suit for Memorial Day? Who will remember Don with his baseball cap and tools working on his next church maintenance project? Who will remember Laura’s cinnamon rolls, and Faline’s quilts? Who will remember Luan who first began prodding the rest of us five years ago to plan for this 200th Anniversary weekend, and Robin and Kim who led the effort?
One thing we do have from two hundred years ago is just a brief footnote that somehow was passed along through the generations. It is a simple mention of the Bible text used for preaching by the Rev. Herman Halsey on that first Sunday, November 19, 1818: II Corinthians 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ”. I can make a good guess of what he preached about it. Even as a small gathering of maybe a dozen people or less, meeting in a farmhouse a couple of miles south of here, in lands only recently settled, the path into the future for that small group needed to be a bold one. It was just a few families, but every single one those people was a part of the plan to create a community centered on the love and hope of Jesus Christ. The only way to sustain this ministry would be to equip each one to be a bold ambassador for Jesus Christ, in what they said and how they lived.
Maybe in the year 2218 the text I am using today will still be remembered, Micah 6:6-8. I hope so! I’ve always loved this text that to boils down the essentials of faith to three simple things, three things that got us through our first 200 years, three things that describe who we are and what we do today, and three things that describe the way forward into the next two hundred years. “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God?”
You can begin preparing for that next two hundred years right now, by planting in your heart that simple commitment to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. Your first step in that walk begins when you leave this service this morning, and it will be a walk that takes you all the way to eternity, that takes our church to the next hundred years and beyond. Thank you, God, for bringing us this far, and thank you, Jesus for walking with us as we move ahead.