Summary: Delivered 1989, on the 25th anniversary of the reception of the church's first black member. We wait for full joy and unity, which come from embracing all people and from being the agents of redemption for all needs.
Exactly twenty-five years ago, two things happened which were destined to have a profound effect on my life, and I want to share them with you this morning. These two unrelated happenings took place without the people involved in either one being aware of the other one, but, as I have said, both made a real impact on my life. And, as you see, at least one of them speaks to all of us today.
One of those events a quarter century ago took place in a little town in eastern Kentucky, in the hospital run by the college in that little town. On the 17th of April in l964 Margaret Smith gave birth to her first-born, Bryan, and when the doctors said, "Where is the father? We saw him around here just a while ago," Margaret had to say, "Oh, he's over at the Baptist church, playing the organ for the revival services." I’ve taken a lot of teasing over the years for trying to handle a revival at the same time my son was being born, and I don't have the slightest idea right now what the preacher said that night or even who he was, but all I know is that that week, wherever I spent it, was a week in which the gift of new life from our gracious God was being given. New life from the giver of life.
Now at precisely the same time, some 600 miles away, completely unknown to me, something else was happening that would be an evidence of new life from the giver of life. On the 12th of April in that same year, 1964, this church, Takoma Park Baptist Church, received a very special new member. His name was Robert Faulkner; and no one knew at that time how exceptionally special he would be. But they did focus, I'm confident, on one aspect of his specialness. Robert Faulkner was the first black person that this congregation had received into membership.
Let me tell you: off in eastern Kentucky they were holding a revival service, and I do not know at this point whether those services made any difference to the life of the Kingdom. But here in Washington real revival was beginning, real renewal was happening.
Off there in eastern Kentucky a new little life came into the world that has of course made a profound impact on me, and still does, every time the tuition bill shows up (and I pray daily this is the last one); it has a profound impact. But here in Washington new life was coming also, new life in God’s church, new life in the Kingdom, and that new life impacts me and you and a whole network of people.
This morning I simply want to mark that quarter-century anniversary; I want on your behalf to thank Bob Faulkner for being the willing instrument through whom the Spirit could work those many years ago; and then I want to let the Scripture shed light on the meaning of that occasion and .the challenge it still presents to us. Because, you see, I am going to contend that 25 years ago you began a process which continues and is not finished, that you got some real joy out of that happening a quarter century ago, but that you and I are still waiting for the full joy that the Father wants for us.
Robert, we salute you and thank you, because in no small measure this church today is what it is because you had the courage and determination to stay with this church until it would do what God had called it to do; and it is not too much to say that every person in this room is in some way the beneficiary of your pioneering steps. Thank you, Bob, and may our God continue to bless your influence, your ministry, and when we get to the 50th anniversary, I hope I have enough energy to keep up with you and to be here with you!
Now the great high priestly prayer of Jesus, a prayer which he offered on the verge of his agony on the cross, expresses his hopes for his church, for our church as well as for the whole church, and I want to share a portion of it with you and suggest that it remains the Lord's prayer and hope for this congregation. And I want you to enter into the spirit of this prayer not just by thinking about the responsibilities that it implies but by focusing on the joy that it promises. Jesus is praying these things for us so that our joy might be complete and full. Listen:
Father, keep them which thou has given me, that they may be one …that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.