January 11, 2017
In 2017 Mt Vernon Community church, the church I have served for over 20 years, will celebrate its 150th anniversary. Specifically, the church was founded on Jan 27th 1867 but we are taking the whole year to celebrate. I know that compared to some churches we are young pups but for others… well they can only hope to reach this milestone. Congratulations to all of you who have had a part to play in the history of this wonderful place.
Now that being said, I was trying to get 150 in my head. I began to wonder if there is anything in my house that is 150 years old. Outside of a few pairs of my underwear and some socks nothing comes to mind. 150 rolls off of the tongue easily enough but it’s a significant chunk of history. Again, not by carbon dating standards, but by life standards. The world has seen over 100 million deaths through war since the founding of this church. That is unprecedented in human history. We have gone from an agricultural society, where small farms consumed the landscape, to factories and then to high tech. Imagine if someone from 1867 were to appear in our country today! They would be shocked beyond description. Someone was asked if they could go back to the 1950’s (only 60 years ago), what would they tell people about 2017? The answer, “I would tell them that in 2017, you can carry all of the world’s knowledge in your pocket or purse. They are called ‘cell phones’.”
Displayed in a case in the hallway of Mt Vernon church are the original communion plates, cup and the first baptismal font. I look at them on occasion and just say, “WOW!” The people who chose those, bought those, and used those items had no idea that 150 years later they would still be a part of the church.
My mother had a great uncle who lived to the age of 103. He died sometime in the 1930’s. I remember her telling me as a kid that he used to brag about the fact that he VOTED for Abraham Lincoln. No, not “was alive during” but actually “VOTED FOR!” My mother knew someone who VOTED for Lincoln?! How amazing is that?
We are far from 1867 and yet not as far as we might suppose. I’m not sure, but sometime in the not too distant future the last person born in the 19th century will pass. That means there are still folks alive who are from that era! Think of what they have seen develop! Flight, automobiles, radio, television, indescribable wars, nuclear weapons and their use, space travel, the internet, etc. I suspect no other generation in human history has seen the “progress” they have.
There is a down side to all of this. In 1867 there was a deep yearning for The Church. Outside of a very small number of “super churches,” the thirst for Christian faith is on the decline in our country. Some see revival on the horizon… I seriously doubt that but God is surely capable, if He so chooses. It seems however that God has “moved” most of His troops to Korea, Southern Africa, South America and, of all places, China. (Some speculate that there are more Christians in China than any country in the world. Doesn’t hurt to have 1.4 billion people.) I will not be around to see it of course, but I seriously doubt that any churches founded in 2017 in the United States will be around to celebrate in 2167.
Should this be troubling? To some degree, I suppose… but it’s all part of human history and a part of the Church’s past. There are ebbs and flows. Down times and up times. Times of prosperity and times of struggle. It seems to be the way God designed the system. Or the effects of sin on the system. You pick.
There is an odd but interesting book in the Old Testament called Ecclesiastes. You may not have read it. And quite honestly it’s so odd that it’s hard to recommend for folks because it feels like a total downer. A particular word appears in this book over and over again along with a specific sentiment. The word is “meaningless,” i.e., everything is “meaningless.” The “sentiment” is that “nothing new exists under the sun.” There are essentially 11 chapters of “meaninglessness” to life and reminders that nothing ever changes. And then “the conclusion of the matter” found at the end of chapter 12.
13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
No matter the number of years that go by. No matter the circumstances of our lives. No matter the status of The Church. No matter the depths of despair we might encounter. No matter the frustrations with the World. No matter how many years our local church has survived or will survive. No matter our health. No matter our dreams or dashed dreams. “This is the conclusion of the matter”:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
It’s hard to hear that in our self-serving world. Fear God, my friends… all the years of your life.
Congratulations Mt Vernon Community Church!!!!