After I expressed some angst about our lack of inspiration leading up to Homecoming Sunday, I received a number of messages of reassurance. Among them was an encouraging word from Kevin Berasley in Ypsilanti MI, who wrote:
“We haven’t been to a Homecoming Sunday in 15 years, but don’t ever stop holding them. It’s part of the rhythm of our life to feel wistful each year when we miss it, and to enjoy whatever pictures come our way.
Seriously, though, we do hope to make it for Homecoming one of these years. Blessings!”
It felt good to hear that even those who are usually unable to make the trip feel a little “wistful.” I felt that way too as I thought of the time when Kevin and Jane were an active part of the ABC family.
Another communication came from Steve Nagle in Kingsburg CA, who reminded me that his wedding to Mary Shoebridge in December of 1972 was the first I performed at ABC. He also sent greetings from Mary’s dad Al, who is 95 and lives in a rest home. Al was a carpenter, and he had a hand in installing ABC’s baptistry, remodeling the sanctuary platform area and redesigning the church kitchen.
The out-of-towners who came from farthest away were Jim and Donna Snider, who live in Seattle WA and were able to combine this trip with a visit to Jim’s mother in Arizona, and Linda Lane White, who was in town from Littleton CO to visit her mother in Altadena. We were also glad to see Ed and Emy Reitz, who came down the mountain from Hemet CA.
However, most of the people who filled our sanctuary for worship and our banquet hall for a fellowship meal afterwards were people who live within a half-hour of the church. This means that if we were all more regular in attendance, the church would be full every Sunday. That would be nice.
When I asked Messenger readers to contribute “tiny stories” about specific memories of events or people that had a lasting impact on their journey toward faith, I was trying to make the point that our relationship with God may not come in one great “Aha!” moment, but through numerous small brilliant flashes of insight and understanding. People responded in a wide variety of ways, and I’d like to share some of them with you in the next few Messenger issues. Today I’ll focus on two that are very specific and concrete:
“While I was watching a movie about Paris in elementary school one day, I saw a picture of Notre Dame Cathedral and a close-up of an older woman praying intently alone. I never forgot that scene. It told me wordlessly more about God than anything to that point in my life.” (John Swanson)
“My great aunt Ollie, who raised me, gave me my first Bible. I found comfort in the pages of that Bible by looking at the pictures of Jesus and his disciples. Aunt Ollie was childless, and I’d like to think she gave it to me so I would get to know and trust Jesus through these pages like she did. I learned about walking in faith from her.” (Jackie Kelsey)
What strikes me about these two examples is the power of visual images in building our faith. They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and that’s probably an understatement. Realizing the importance of this, we should appreciate all the symbols in our church — the cross, the baptismal filled with water, the communion table and the elements on it, all the banners and seasonal decorations placed around the sanctuary. We should also recognize the potential power of visual memories we put before our children, whether positive (Dad praying before dinner) or negative (Dad stumbling home drunk). These pictures are likely to stay in their minds a lot longer than the things we’d like them to learn in Sunday School.
I’ll share more “tiny stories” next week. I’d still like to hear yours.
— Pastor George Van Alstine