Today, splashed – sadly – all over the headlines, another deeply damaging abuse scandal has further tarnished the image of The Church in the national consciousness, once again featuring misogyny, manipulation, and cover-up.
How sad. Especially sad since the truth about the Gospel of Love is that of light, peace, grace, mercy, promise, and love.
So I am glad to have been in a sanctuary full of saints this weekend. First Sunday morning, with the good people of Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church; then in the afternoon, when I drove over to Rocky Mount for my first “Presbytery Photographer” gig in three years. It’s another welcome sign that Covid is loosening its grip on the “together” aspect of life here in North Carolina,
The event was the Presbytery of New Hope’s annual “Outstanding Older Adult Recognition” service. Congregations from all over the region select honorees and submit comprehensive citations. Then, every May, all these beautiful, faithful, hardworking saints come together for a service of thanksgiving and celebration.
The best of the best:
You know the kind of people I’m talking about. They teach Sunday school, work in the church garden, run hunger programs, mentor young people, serve as deacons and elders, sign up for Habitat builds, organize mission trips, volunteer in the office, lead Bible studies, represent the church at Presbytery and General Assembly; they serve, and serve, and serve, and then some.
Additionally, in their “regular lives”, these folk were/are all overachievers as teachers, IBM executives, entrepreneurs, professors, lawyers, judges, doctors, and more – cutting edge leaders in anything and everything.
In consequence, when we recognize outstanding older adults from so many different congregations, the spiritual energy in the room is palpable – enough to light a fire and change the world again, and again.
One remarkable feature (as compared to the ego-padding and self-promotion seen so often at secular awards events) of this particular celebration is the humility.
There are smiles, yes, and a warm appreciation for all the love, but there is no self-congratulation, no basking in the limelight, no sense of “look at me!”
These are people who serve because they follow Jesus. Paul put it this way in the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,Philippians 2:3-7
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
When this morning’s report was released, detailing decades of systemic sexual abuse and cover up within a major church denomination, I thought how tragic, how very sad. And how sad that the publicity surrounding the scandal is all many people will hear about Christ’s Church.
No. This is the real story. This is the truth about the gospel. These people, these outstanding Presbyterian older adults, are the hands and the feet – the face – of Jesus. Let their story be told!
Peace and more peace – DEREK