I stumbled across this little piece on my hard-drive today looking for something else. It interested me. Maybe it will interest you, too. About a year ago I preached in the church where my little brother is the pastor. Here is how I introduced the message:
“Your pastor is seven years younger than I. I was there when he came home from the hospital. At the time we lived in a little bungalow on Francis Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I expected someone I could play football with and when I got home I was very disappointed to find a little tiny baby only a little bigger than a football himself. He would not even open his eyes and stop crying long enough to greet me. He was all red and wrinkly. You may not think he is much to look at now but you would not believe the improvement he has made since those first few frightening days.
Fortunately things got better as time went by. I helped him learn to ride a bike. I helped him learn to throw and catch a baseball and a football. I shared my treehouses with him. I was his model for youthful romance which he wisely rejected.
I did some interesting things to your pastor when we were young. Once I told him that if he kept a rock in his mouth long enough it would turn to bubble gum. Once I took him with me to a Cincinnatti Red’s baseball game and bought him some peanuts. He enjoyed them. I was preoccupied with the game and didn’t notice that he was eating them in the shell. He had never had them before. On one particularly dark episode I conned him into drinking bleach. I almost lost my big brother license over that one.
Don’t ever tell me the grace of God does not work in a person’s life to help them forgive…. If it were not for God’s grace your pastor would never speak to me again let alone invite me to do pulpit supply. It is the grace of God and the work of God in us and maybe only that that motivates us to reconcile.
There is a scene in a movie I have seen over and over again, based on the writing of Norman McClean, where two boys, both Presbyterian pastor’s sons are lying in the grass beside the stream talking on a summer afternoon discussing if they will follow in their father’s footsteps. They look at eachother and just laugh as if that is the farthest thing from their minds. The McClean boys would have done better if they had. The younger brother was murdered and the older one judging from his writing was a good fly-fisherman and a great writer but he would have done better had he aspired to have his life match the catechism of his Presbyterian youth.
You know that Melony, Kevin, Nathan, and I are all in the ministry today. We grew up in small churches. Small, sometimes struggling churches. Churches with questionable futures, limited means, and marginal Christian vitality. Yet in all God was at work. In spite of some of the pitiful behavior we witnessed in the church we all have developed a love for the work of God.
You have a lovely small church here. I believe in rural churches. I believe the kingdom of God advances on a million feet the feet of little platoons of Christians all over the world. This is one of them.