Last night we had a fiftieth anniversary friends party.
Terry and Carolyn Box told someone that it was the fiftieth anniversary of being friends with Ron and Betty Claunch. A suggestion was made to have a Friends Anniversary Party. So we did! I think the final total was about 18 attended the celebration at the Box’s home. Well hosted, well fed, a grand time of sharing fond memories.
It was two years later that Tanya and I joined the friendship. We’ve been a part of the group for 48 years. I moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, to teach for the 1973 Fall Semester at Stephen F. Austin State University. Shortly after that Tanya’s aunt Ann introduced us. Ann was a masters level student in one of my classes. The introduction worked and Tanya and I dated. The next year 1974, Tanya and Paul married at Fredonia Hill Baptist Church. That’s where most of the “friends” at the party last night went to church. Many years have passed, and some are no longer with us. They have taken the ultimate journey and gone on before us. Today the group is scattered to several different churches in Nacogdoches. Tanya and I just moved back to the area after having moved away 43 years ago. We moved back just in time to be part of the group.
I had several major thoughts going into the gathering last evening. First, was Psalm 133.
1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
Then the second thought I borrowed from Rev. James E. Laurence, My Pastoral Ponderings, his posting for July 1. “Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.” He quotes Count Zinzendorf, who was bishop of the Moravian Church. He reportedly offered this instruction to his missionaries, “Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.” Rev. Laurence said he might change it slightly to “Live the gospel, die, and be forgotten.”
When Laurence, as do I, comes across a theme in different places, we pay attention, and wonder what God might be saying to us. This was one of those occasions and I borrowed excerpts from the post to read to those gathered last night.
Everyone in the room had served the Kingdom in different ways. There were four retired university professors, a widower of a missionaries daughter, two retired public school teachers, a pastor/teacher, the widow of a pastor. Many in the group had led Sunday school classes and had taught Bible in other venues. I think I can safely say, everyone in the room has served the Lord and have left their mark. We have lived the gospel. Some have died. Last night we remembered each other and celebrated our friendship.
Laurence goes on to quote from the ending of George Eliot’s “Middlemarch.”
“…the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
And then one more from Laurence,
Thornton Wilder’s “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” which also has an ending that is quite well-known, for good reason. Here it is:
“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
Last night I was reminded of the frailty of life. As Tanya and I do just about every night, we hold hands and pray. I note how many we pray for among our family and fiends who have health issues. We are frail beings. Our end here on Earth is death. But there are scriptures of hope;
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. John 11:25
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:51-55
I borrow one more quote from Revered Laurence, “…as I preach/live the gospel, and serve my God, as I attend funerals of loved ones, and as I continue the work to which I am called. The bridge is love. Always.
I pray Love and Blessings for you my dear reader.