Last Monday I was a first grader for about ninety minutes. How cool is that! While visiting family in the city where I spent all but one of my years as an elementary school student, I was asked by my great-niece Isabella to walk with her in the end of the school year parade. This parade has been a tradition in that city for many years and children, and teachers look forward to it with much enthusiasm. I first waked in it well over 50 years ago, and, as I joined them heading toward Main Street last Monday, I realized how some things in life never change.
The Bible says in Psalms 11:3, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" As I was walking in the parade I tried to observe things from a first grader's perspective. I realized in those moments the importance of foundations in society. There are certain systems and institutions that continue to provide us with safety, security and stability. The parade provided a unique view of some of them.
Only minutes into the walk, we came to a major intersection where law enforcement officers were controlling traffic coming from side streets. To our left a policeman was outfitted with a uniform and equipment that made quite an impression on the children. My niece loudly and proudly proclaimed to her classmates, "he must be in the army, and he looks just like that!" Children know that adults are to protect them. They recognize that some have authority to keep peace and maintain order. Parades and other civic events put those truths on display and it's good to be reminded there are those who will lay down their lives for us.
Many of the elementary schools in that area are named after U.S. presidents and as we all gathered on the playground of Washington Elementary, teachers organized their students under banners emblazoned with their school name. Many schools had shirts with catchy phrases, and they were worn proudly in the early morning sun. Each class within the school was led by two students holding up a banner or poster with their name or slogan. I noticed the pride and sense of belonging among the teachers and students. I couldn't help but think as I walked along how the Lord puts the solitary in families. Only when we are in Christ and part of His church do we experience the ultimate "belonging." The need for that belonging beats in every human heart and the need is only met at Calvary.
And, of course, we walked by places of worship. The role of the Christian church in American history cannot be overestimated. The buildings, as impressive as they are, serve to remind us they are only wood, masonry and glass if truth does not emanate from them. In our nation's history, pulpits have been the launching pads for truth. From them words of salvation, comfort and hope have been proclaimed in our darkest hours. The church is to be the pillar and support of the truth to a community. There is to be no compromise within the church. Truth may die in the streets, but it is to be alive and powerful in the pulpit and around the altar.
The parade's route took me within five blocks of the church where, in 1957, I knelt before Jesus Christ and became born again. Since then the parade of my life has taken many twists and turns. I have failed my Lord on many occasions but His grace has found me, restored me and kept me by the power of God. Monday's parade touched this preacher's heart and rekindled the flame of God's glorious gospel in my soul. It was good to be with family. It was good to re-visit the place of my roots. How refreshing to be a first grader again! How encouraging to see small town USA at its best. Thank you Isabella for the invitation - and thank God for the things I saw.
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association.)