A Goodly Heritage
February 28 2021 Psalm 16
One of my pastoral colleagues asked me yesterday what I would be preaching about today. “A goodly heritage,” I replied.
What does that mean? She asked.
I told her that the word “goodly” comes from Elizabethan English; it means considerably large, substantial:
The KJV of our Bible (1611) translates verses 5 & 6 of Psalm 16 like this:
“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:
6 The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.”
I’ve been mulling over this verse in Psalm 6 as I recognize that I only have a few more days your interim pastor.
When I first preached at FPC Peoria 5 years ago I never dreamed that I would be called as your interim pastor, never dreamed that I would spend five years in this role, never dreamed that I would steer the church through the pandemic, never dreamed that my friend and much admired pastoral colleague, David Hodgson, would step into the Zoom pulpit as I stepped out.
As we celebrated our 125 anniversary in April, 2017 I boned up for our anniversary celebration by reading “The First Hundred Years” written by Juanita Comstock Trask. It was written for our 100th anniversary in 1992. One of the stories there which really caught my eye was the ministry of our first pastor, the Rev. Henry Thompson. The Rev. Thompson was a circuit rider. His circuit stretched from Casa Grande to Congress. He stopped here to preach twice a month. According to Google, it is 121.1 miles between between Casa Grande and Congress. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to ride a horse for miles and miles in the middle of August. According to our church history the Rev. Thompson packed a six shooter along with his Bible. A six shooter! To discourage robbers? To ward off rattle snakes? Actually I’ve encountered a few snakes in the churches I’ve served and wish now I had known about Rev. Thompson sooner.
After the Rev. Thompson left there followed a succession of pastors. There have been 32 in all, some permanently installed, some interims, some stated supplies. I make 33. David, 34. Over the years the laborers have changed; but the work has gone on.
And what shall say about lay people who have made this church what it is today? The original property owners of this property, Deloss S. Brown and Joseph B. Greenhut, deeded five lots to the congregation for the princely sum of one dollar. And on those lots our historic sanctuary sits today. A visionary woman, who truly is this church’s founder, Jennie Mann, started a SS for three children. All of them, all of them, had one thing in mind: to make Christ known in the desert.
A couple of years ago this welcome message was placed in the narthex of Coventry Cathedral, the seat of Anglicanism in the British Isles.
“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled or down-at-heel. We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers. We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You’re welcome here if you’re just browsing, just woken up or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury or haven’t been to church since Christmas 10 years ago. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.
We welcome keep-fit moms, football dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps or don’t like organized religion. We’re not that keen on it either. We offer welcome to those who think the Earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because Granny is visiting and wanted to come to the cathedral. We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither.
“We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids or got lost on the Ring Road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters and you.”
I like that welcome message. I think it fits who we are as a congregation: open doors and open hearts to all who have been here for a long time, and for those who will for the first time today and stay for tomorrow.