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Standing on the Shoulders

Recently I had the wonderful experience of driving down U.S. 59 to Edna, Texas where a Presbyterian church building that was constructed in 1908 had been restored. Two local history buffs had decided to pool their money and restore the structure that no longer served a congregation and had fallen into disrepair. The job now complete, with much of the original features still intact, several of us were able to tour this beautiful architectural edifice. It was fascinating to imagine the voice of Rev. Eugene McLaurin, pastor of that congregation 100 years ago, filling that space as he preached from that pulpit and served as pastor to that community. McLaurin’s son was with us on the tour a few weeks ago. On that same day we drove about ten miles south of town where another structure that served as the “mother church” in that area in the 19th century, the Texana Presbyterian Church, stood. This was not its original location, but the building had also been restored. Neither of these two buildings serves as home to a congregation anymore, but they do host community events. And so, as I drove home that afternoon, I wondered why should anyone care about these buildings now. Has the church become little more than an item of architectural or historical interest or, perhaps even worse, simply a museum? After all, we all know that the church is the people, not a building. And yet, we have all kinds of museums, monuments, and memorials that jar our memories and serve to remind us not only of our past, but also of how and why we are where we are. In my part of the world the San Jacinto Monument stands nearby as a reminder of those who fought and died for Texas independence. The Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee serves as a vivid reminder of the struggle for civil rights in this country, a struggle that continues. Holocaust Museums help us remember a tragedy that we forget at our own peril. Art museums celebrate the gifts of talented artists, past and present. We hope that the church does not become simply an architectural memorial or a museum. We are the people of God who live, work, and serve in the present. But we do so knowing that we would not be here were it not for the faithful witness of those who have gone before us. As we make history today, may we do so with a keen sense of gratitude to God for the communion of saints who “have fought the good fight, ... finished the race, and have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7). We stand on their shoulders.

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