Just like any other day, except it was Sunday. I put the coffee pot on and we had breakfast. The phone rang as I prepared to attend early service at North Avenue. My wife answered, announcing, “You can talk to him yourself!” I took the phone, not knowing who was on the other end. “Is this your real birthday?” asked the caller.
Caught off guard, I laughed; it was Steve, from Prestonsburg. I was only in P-burg four times this winter, bolstering the efforts at Reformation Publishers, doing whatever I could at the church, and enjoying life in SE KY. In P-burg, Steve knew we celebrated my birthday early, (our daughter in Winchester used it as an excuse to take her mother out and Steve knew I had to get over to Winchester for a birthday bash). Even after I returned to Battle Creek (on one of my trips north), Megan, one of the P-burg youth) called long distance to wish me happy birthday and I lamely explained it was still early for my “real” birthday. So when Steve called, his question had a history behind it.
When I finally arrived at early service, Pastor Jim prefaced our conversation with “I had a phone call this morning…!” He didn’t sing “Happy Birthday” to me, (that would have been a disaster), but they would have in P-burg. The church did recognize me, however; 58 years in ministry is a while, and I am humbled that I can still be of use here and there.
As if that was not enough, our daughter insisted her mother take me out for birthday dinner. So, rather than go cheapy, as I would have preferred, we went to Old Country Buffet and thoroughly enjoyed overeating, chicken, fish, seafood salad and a ton of other salads etc etc , washed down with milk and a cup of coffee.
I share this to unpack Jim Sparks sermon outline from Philippians 1:3-11 (one of my favorite books) - “Living On a Prayer…” The service did recognize Memorial Day, but Jim’s sermon offered a prayer of thanksgiving. He suggested we thank God for community, (Phil. 1:3); for confidence 1:6; for reversing our plans (1:9); and for the great hope (1:10-11).
On this great day in my life, I can give thanks for the great hope, that I have within. I do thank God for sometimes reversing my plans, and I am thankful for the confidence I have in-and-of Him. But, I was especially taken with thanking God for the community of which I am a part. We don’t begin to understand the value of that word.
Community may begin with family, and I have a loving family of incalculable worth to me. Community may includes a neighborhood, a village, even a city. In my case, it includes a “faith family” in which I have been a minister_writer for more than half a century. Again, in my case (and I’m not alone in this) that community incorporates my biological family, my North Avenue family, my P-burg church family, and the line reaches out until it falls off the horizon. In a short time, I may experience a oneness of community in Battle Creek, SE Kentucky, Clarksville, AR; The LA Basin, the Pacific NW, Nis, Serbia, or elsewhere
There was a day when some people thought ONE WORLD was something out of the Apocalypse, to be shunned. Our ONE WORLD “community” is a fact to be enjoyed, if we have enough spiritual insight to value and enjoy it. There are those who threaten it. There are powers that can potentially destroy it. The atom bomb that fell on Nagasaki in WWII is now merely the trigger to the incomprehensible Hydrogen Bomb, so General Lee Butler tells us.
If I heard the General correctly--former head of SAC Command and the officer at the other end of the President’s red telephone--one H-bomb in downtown LA could blast a crater 6000 feet across, something like 175 feet deep, and 20 miles away it would incinerate a person’s clothing, and eliminate buildings 30 miles away. That is a worst case scenerio. There are many other facets of our world community with which we struggle, but it comes down to this: Martin Luther King said it more eloquently; I say it simply: we swim together, or we drown together. That is the bottom line of how important community is.
I enjoyed the recognition from my closer community today, and beyond. There is also a larger community out there that I value. I deeply respect the values of my church tradition, and out of that, I have a reverence for our global community of varying colors, creeds, and ethnicities.
There is no one out there who is unwelcome in what I would call “my community.” I covet peace, prosperity, and freedom for every boy, girl, man, and woman around the globe. I work for that. I pray for that. Never underestimate the values found in the word community.
So much for birthdays; now to get back to the business of making this a decent place where we can live together. Wayne,
from Warner’s World