If someone had told my wild child teenage self that on August 16th I would stand in a pulpit and preach at a church in my hometown I would have laughed in her face. Me? The girl with four siblings who grew up in Oneonta, New York, working on a farm without a clue about who God was? Never!
And yet, on August 16th I will do just that.
It’s not the first time I’ve preached in a church but it is the first time I’ve preached at this particular church – and this particular church is different from any other place I’ve preached.
Not because it’s liturgical or because it’s Presbyterian (my theological training is more in the vain of Bible/Baptist church world). It isn’t different because it’s small, (30- 50 attendees on a good day) and I am used to preaching to the mega church world in Dallas. It’s different because it was founded by my great-great grandfather, Rev. James Frazier. Back in 1887 he founded the First United Presbyterian Church. But somewhere between the founding of that church and my upbringing – faith was lost. It seems my great great grandfather’s faith skipped my grandfather and didn’t stick on my father either. (Although my dad has come to know Jesus in his later years, yay!) But growing up I wasn’t exposed to faith, Jesus or Church. In fact I don’t recall even knowing any Christians. God was a non entity. Until I went to college where a friend shared Christ. I ended up going to seminary and somehow, and it’s a long story, ended up being a preacher in the conservative evangelical church.
I’ve often wondered why my great great grandfather’s faith didn’t stick. Why was there this darkness for decades? Generations later faith seemed lost in our family tree.
In the Book of Judges we read where faith can be extinguished in a short period of time – just a generation or two. “The people served Yahweh throughout the lifetime of Joshua and throughout the lifetime of those elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the great deeds which Yahweh had done for the sake of Israel. … And when that whole generation had been gathered to its ancestors, another generation followed it which knew neither Yahweh nor the deeds which he had done for the sake of Israel.” (Judges 2:7-10)
Somewhere between 1887 and my upbringing faith ceased – or so it seemed.
But God. On August 16th I’m going to stand in the very same pulpit as my great great grandfather and preach from the Scripture.
It gives me hope. Hope that faith may skip a generation or two but it can’t be extinguished. It might look blown out, gone, no spark of it’s existence and then there’s a flicker generations later. My kids currently aren’t walking with Jesus. They used to but not any more. And my preaching in August gives me hope. Faith won’t cease. It will shine again.
I long for my kids to return to Jesus. I grieve over some of the time and talent lost as they wander. I think 3 John 1:4 captures my mother heart, “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” But I know I have no control over my kid’s faith nor how they will raise their kids in the faith – or not.
But on August 16th as I stand in the pulpit of my great-great grandfather’s church I will hold onto hope. Cause Scripture is clear, “BUT GOD” and whenever you see the words “but God” in Scripture you know something is about to change. Things happen. The impossible becomes possible. (Luke 18:27)