We are Family
Cornwall 30th anniversary service
July 26, 2003
Good afternoon everyone. It’s wonderful to be together with so many of you today. Thank you for traveling here from some distances and for planning to join together today for this special service- an early celebration of this congregation’s 30th anniversary- 30 years of this church in this Cornwall area.
We are gathered as a group that spent time together over those 30 years, different of us at different times. I, for instance, am a ‘Johnny come lately’, having been here for only a bit over 4 years so far. Some of you go way back to the beginning or near the beginning- it’s hard to imagine how quickly 30 years pass, but I remember that in July 1973 I was working in a hotel in Brandon, Manitoba- about to return to California for my second year at Ambassador College. It doesn’t seem that far back- time speeds by, it seems.
We are gathered as a group that worshipped together for many years. I know there will be remembering of some of the Spokesman Club evenings and meetings you’ve been together, including the Ladies’ Nights. You’ll remember some of the picnics you’ve had together- I’ve heard of many different locations you have had those picnics; tomorrow, we’ll meet at the Langs’ farm. You’ll recall some of the festivals you celebrated together and, maybe, some of the trips some of you took together en route to one in the fall. I’m sure you’ll share memories of some who are not here and who weren’t able to make it and of some who have passed away, too.
We’re together, but how did we come together in the first place? Each of us was brought ‘here’ because of the favour and calling of God who was doing something important in each of our lives.
John 6.44- Jesus speaks of the reality of ‘calling’, where God brings people to Jesus. Somehow He opens ears and eyes at important junctures in our lives and allows us to hear his calling to us. He allows us to choose, of course, because the ‘coming’ is in our realm or activity, it appears, but he’s there ‘calling’. We all know that, in life, sometimes we hear and sometimes we don’t. Our wife might be calling us from outside to go out and to help dig something in the garden. Sometimes, we might legitimately not hear- maybe there is a radio or TV on, or other background sound. Sometimes, we choose to not hear, being distracted by something else like a book we’re reading or even, simply, by our desire not to go out and help in that way at that time. Well, we don’t know how loudly or how long God had to call each of us, but we know that He did. That’s how we got to be here in the first place.
Eph. 2.2-7- these verses tell us that our being here is very much a ‘God thing’. It’s not a ’you’ or me ‘thing’, in the end, but it is reality and was reality, and has been for whatever period of time, because of God and Him alone. He drew us from wherever we were in our lives. He reached down and interrupted our lives at a time of His choosing. It had nothing to do with what was most convenient to us. It had nothing to do with our deciding to call out to Him. It had everything to do with Him, and He drew us not to some mediocre place, but into the heavenly realm- v. 6. Verse 7 tells us that this is part of some long-term plan- the ongoing addition to the book of Acts- in that He’s in the midst of showing, both now and long-term, what he’s doing for us through Jesus Christ.
v. 12-14a- Jesus, of course, is the key. He is the one through whom we come to the Father, and we’ve always known that in our church, and always preached and taught that. Our coming together was very much a ‘God thing’, and I love that focus and find it very centering and helpful in my life. I must remember that the centre is not me but Jesus, who is the one through whom we learn about and come to God.
So, we are gathered because God did something special in our lives at one time in the past. We gathered together and worshipped and played together despite all the differences, and, without question, there are so many differences. Think about those of this congregation that you know and think, for a few moments, of all the differences. Think of the different tastes in music. Think of the different tastes in cars, clothing, food, jobs, houses, national background, number of children, married or not married, male or female. We can make quite an impressive list of the differences, yet, despite all those, we have worshipped and played and worked together as a congregation in Cornwall for 30 years! How is that possible? How could we ride over the differences? Oh, I’m sure that some of the differences were hard for some to ride over and work with- some always are for some people because of background or prejudices or past teaching or any number of other reasons. But you and I have done it. But how, in the final analysis, have we done it?
We’ve gone forward, as a congregation, for 30 years, despite all our personal differences, because we’ve something in common that is bigger than what we have ‘in different’. We have a common calling- each one of us is here because God called us- there’s no other reason. No one is superior to another; no one is lower than another is. Each of us is here because God chose us to be here. We have common entry into God’s family. That’s what happens when God beckons us; he beckons us into His family. That’s what happened in August 1952 to me, when Jack and Louise Lawrence CHOSE me to be in their family and beckoned me- 2 month old me- into their family. I wasn’t, and then I was and have been for the past nearly 51 years and it’s been wonderful. This is what brought each of us here and, when God beckons and we understand it, it seems to me that we have about as much chance to resist as I did when I was 2 months old. Of course, we had the matter of choice more and ‘could’ resist but we did not. In addition to the calling into God’s family, we have Jesus Christ in common. He is your Saviour and He is mine. You don’t have a different Saviour than I have and you don’t have a different one than I have. In addition, He is big brother to all of us- He is our elder brother. He is your elder brother and He is my elder brother.
Despite the differences, these are what we have in common which has enabled us to be here, together, for 30 years, and this is all part of what God has been doing. He has been bringing together Jew and Gentile, black and white, North American and African- bringing people together to common parentage and to His family.
Eph. 2. 18-19, 20-22- I’ve always thought verse 19 is significant. Many have commented on the fact that we would not know each other except for ‘the church’- really, except for ‘God’ who brought us here. I know that I would not have met my wife except for this reality- we would have been strangers- Lynn living in Los Angeles and me in Manitoba. Likely, my best friend and I wouldn’t be friends- he lived in Winnipeg and I lived in rural Manitoba, and we only met in the church in Winnipeg in 1971. So, we’re no longer strangers but we are family, formed together by the hand of God.
Families sometimes fight. Ours did and we’ve had some major fights, we know, over the years. Humanly, it’s part of family life. Children fight parents, parents fight their children’s growing up, families resist developments and changes as the family ages (children move out, parents age and die, etc.). In my family, there were two brothers, at about ages 70, so this goes back 15 years or so, who didn’t speak to each other for most of 2 years because of a misunderstanding and some assumptions. In my mother’s family, we had an annual family picnic- the Lovatt picnic- and sometimes there were some who were upset with some others and they wouldn’t come to the annual picnic.
Maybe you heard the news a few weeks back about the famous Hatfield and McCoy blood feud of West Virginia. This feud began back in 1865 when a Hatfield and McCoy fell in love and, being from opposite sides of the tracks, in a manner of speaking, it gave rise to bloodshed and animosity that lasted until 2003. That’s a longtime for families to be upset and angry and fighting, but it happened. The families have reconciled, and I don’t know the process involved- haven’t read about it but heard about it and this is news worthy. I’m sure that everything isn’t forgotten but the fight is over.
Reconciliation is important in families and this is God’s great desire for his children. Because God has made us with so many differences, he recognizes that these will flare up sometimes and will lead to some family tensions and squabbles. However, the family needs to remember that this doesn’t make them any less family. We have a common history and common parentage and common calling. We are still family. We, as God’s family, might not agree on every front, but we are still family.
Eph. 3.9, 10, 11, 12- verse 10 tells us that God is showing angels about himself through what he does in the churches with his children! This is pretty exciting. Light angels and dark angels all learn about God- his family, mercy, grace, salvation, reconciliation, etc.- through what happens in the churches. This means that through what happens in our lives, God shows powerful individuals about himself and what occurs when we are subject to Him.
There are different places to be in God’s family- eventually, he’ll bring all his children together but, for now, he works with us in different places- this is but one in Cornwall, for instance. He knows that his children have different views on many things, but his children do not have different views about what is most important- Jesus Christ. However, despite those different views and even different expressions of response to God, we’re still family- God’s family- in our case, the Church of God family!
I hope this is a wonderful weekend of focusing on wonderful memories and for remembering how we all got here. Please appreciate each other, our history, even our differences, and appreciate that, despite them, we are still family- wonderful God family!
Paul’s prayer in Eph. 3.14-20,21 is my desire, too, in concluding our time in the Word together today. Read.