What do you think of when you hear the words “Fourth of July”? I think of some of my family’s traditional Independence Day activities: grilling out, the firework displays (and sparklers with our kids), watching “A Capital Fourth” on PBS. And parades! I’m a big fan of parades! There’s a parade we in our churches are part of: the parade of Christian saints down through the ages. It brings to mind the lines of that old hymn, “Forward Through The Ages”:
Forward through the ages, in unbroken line, move the faithful spirits at the call divine; gifts in differing measure, hearts of one accord, manifold the service, one the sure reward. Wider grows the kingdom, reign of love and light; for it we must labor, till our faith is sight. Prophets have proclaimed it, martyrs testified, poets sung its glory, heroes for it died. Forward through the ages, in unbroken line, move the faithful spirits at the call divine.
The third verse of that hymn brings a solemn reminder: Not alone we conquer, not alone we fall; in each loss or triumph lose or triumph all.
We have a responsibility to both the saints who have gone before us and the ones who will come after: to keep faithful to Christ’s Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. We need to keep pointing people to Jesus. The story was told one year at Annual Conference of a young Pastor going to his first appointment. When he got to that rural church, he found three people in attendance: an elderly sister and her two brothers. After the service, the pastor called his grandfather, a retired pastor himself, venting his frustration at having only three in attendance for his first service. His wise grandfather told him “You didn’t just have three; you had millions.” The pastor shared that with his three-person congregation the next week. After that service, one of the brothers came and said, “Pastor, none of us want to be the ones to break the chain.” The next week, the three church members were joined by twenty-four others!
What are you doing to be part of the chain, part of the
parade? Be faithful to God’s call, and see what God will do! Bound by God’s far purpose in one living whole, move we on together to the shining goal.
Marching along with you,