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Tabernacle United Methodist Church

Thursday Thoughts
October 12, 2017

On Thursday, we gathered together in First Baptist Church of Ahoskie, NC, to remember, honor, and give thanks for my Aunt Margaret Earley Springfield, who slipped away from us to take up her place at the Table of the Kingdom on last Monday morning, 9 October. It was, as those moments nearly always are, bittersweet, full of memory and hope. We told lots of stories about her, and that she would have told herself! Many of them began “Do you remember when....?” And then there were the gales of laughter, interspersed with the wiping of a face-full of tears. But memory wasn’t the only item on the menu; we also talked a lot about hope, and tomorrow’s promise, and the faith that says, “This is not the end; it’s only a threshold to an even greater Glory, in the eternal presence of the One from whom we have come!” We sang, read scripture, looked over our shoulders, and stood on tiptoe in anticipation of the Day when we shall all be gathered for the Grand Reunion of “the Family Christian.”

Margaret loved to laugh - she was her siblings’ best at it! But she was also skilled at, gifted with, and full of grace - expressed, embodied, and freely given, as one of her former pastors shared. It stemmed from her own persuasion that God’s grace already enveloped and saturated her, and all of His sons and daughters. It was at the core of her identity, and made a difference in every relationship, every interaction, every conversation with others.

On returning “home” to mom’s place, Chesapeake, I saw my middle brother’s Great Bridge High School Annual/Yearbook, the “Causeway,” from the year that Phyllis and I graduated - 1972. We easily found our own photos, among the band sections, and in the service groups (hers as the president of Delma Tri-Hi-Y for young women, and mine among the stage crew, with all four of us poking our heads out of a spotlight opening in the ceiling of the auditorium!). There were our “formal” photos, and candid ones, too, of friends and classmates, teachers and guides as we made the journey together toward adulthood. A fun amble down Memory Lane!

On Wednesday, late in the morning, Josh Reyes from the Daily Press newspaper, interviewed Rusty Sackett and me about our congregation’s upcoming Bicentennial Sunday celebration. We took him all around our building, showed him a great many things - books, photos, and places, all full of treasures and memories sacred and special. We rang the bell several times out in the courtyard, and he made a brief video of a portion of our conversation. Perhaps you’ve seen both the print version and the video I published on Facebook; if not, let me know, and we’ll help you!

This coming Sunday will be a “threshold” event, not a destination day, for Tabernacle Church. We’ll celebrate and remember with thanksgiving 20 decades of life and ministry in “the Methodist way” here in lovely Poquoson on the banks of the York River. We’ll hear a great preacher, and laugh a lot - and perhaps wipe a tear or two, too. We’ll sing a pair of great hymns, hear the great choir present two “brand new” ones, and be inspired by “Unshackled” in its presentation of a new “twist” on one of the most loved songs in our hymnal, “Amazing Grace!” And that will set the tone for the whole day - memory infused with and informed by hope.

You see, Sunday, 15 October 2017, is not Tabernacle UMC’s destination, the crowning glory of our congregation’s life. Rather, it is a milestone, a marker of our journey in “the race (think marathon!) that is set before us” toward the Kingdom’s full realization. It is the onset, if you will, of our “third centennial lap” - meaning that it is the beginning of a new century of ministry, full of unknowns to discover, new fruit to bear, fresh memories to create, and resurrection to embrace more completely. I know a preacher who was invited to speak at a former congregation’s “homecoming/anniversary” Sunday, and his sermon title was “The Best Year of This Church’s Life.” A lot of folks came hoping that he’d highlight the time that they’d worked so hard to build a new educational wing, or that they had paid all their apportionments in full by the first of December; some hoped that he’d celebrate the year they’d baptized 17 babies, and received a record number of new members, while others “just knew” he was going to recall the year they went on a cruise and started a second service.... As you might imagine, they all had special moments and memories in mind. The preacher began by noting ‘most all of them, but then said, “Do you know what I think this Church’s best year is? It’s next year! There are new adventures to be had, new folks to be invited and included, new programs to be offered, new songs to be sung, and new life to be embraced! It’s going to be ‘off the charts!’”

On this coming Sunday, after worship and photography and lunch (!), at about 1:45 in the afternoon, we’ll gather out in the front yard around the bell in the cemetery, and ring it over and again, once for each year of our church’s life.... some 200 times! Everyone’s invited to make it peal in honor and memory of how we got here, through “thick and thin,” good and challenging times. And when we’ve accomplished that, we’ll pause for prayer, and then begin to ring it again at Number 201 and 202 and 203..... as far as we can imagine into the future! And maybe we’ll applaud and cheer and say “Amen!” in celebration of our confidence in our God who is faithful, and already “owns” the future into which we are going to peer!

I hope you’ll be here on Sunday, 15 October 2017, to remember and to hope, to give thanks and to celebrate our God who goes with us into the unknown future, just as He led the children of Israel in the desert in antiquity, and met with them in the “Tabernacle” tent every time they settled for a while. It’s going to be a great day! It’ll be one to tell the children and grandchildren about for a long time to come... and show them the pictures, the Christmas Tree ornaments, the bulletins, the cookbook, and the whole array of memory-hooks we’ll be able to “treasure trove” away in some safe niche, against that day when we come to 300!

I hope to see YOU on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. - if not before! It’s going to be a great day!

Grace and peace.

Jim Earley, Pastor

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Last update: October 15, 2017 10:16 AM