Kansas in the early morning on the Lord’s Day is nothing short of beautiful (image: “Sunlight Sonata” Copyright 2009 by Daniel W. Coburn, all rights reserved: see http://kansaslandscapephotos.com/). It was here in this place outside of Kansas City that I first began to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ (having known God’s grace myself, for I have, to my everlasting shame, stood as an impostor as a teenage boy) . It is good to return and to see how the Lord’s has richly blessed this Gospel seed at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Westminster Academy. There is a passage that comes to mind:
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old” (Psalms 77.11 ESV).
This morning I remember. And in remembering, like the Psalmist, I pray, I do seek to lift up the glory of the Lord.
I remember it was here that I was ordained as an evangelist. It was here that I announced that the Lord has guided me “home” to plant a new church and a school. And I remember gathering for the first time in an apartment to worship Christ and to pray that He would establish a Golden Lampstand that would be in place when He came again, with souls safe in the arms of Jesus. I remember when we moved to our home in Olathe, Kansas. I remember serving Communion from a Table which was really an old console Zenith TV which my wife transformed with a beautiful white linen. I remember the sight of 45 people crowded into our living room, dining room and entrance, on their knees in prayer. I remember moving to the Overland Trails Elementary School, and our first service. I remember baptizing my son, along with a whole lot of other little ones, in that place: a Middle School gymnasium transformed by the Holy Spirit into a “Sanctuary” as one of our members once reminded me. It was there that some were saved, some were built up, and many babies were held and prayed over in our make-shift nursery! I remember. I remember the days when we moved out of there, difficult days when the vision was tested. We moved to a Seventh Day Adventist Church. But even there, in a place that was further removed from the area I felt the Lord was leading us to, God met with us. I remember receving members, ordaining deacons, and I remember, specifically, a “Confession of Faith” by one of our elders, a dramatic reading of Psalm 51. It gripped my soul then and now as I meditate upon the words and the way he read it. The Lord was surely in that place. And in many ways that was a hard place for us. But on a Sunday afternoon, Mae and I took a drive out in the country, and saw a beautiful field, a windmill, and a home, sitting far back on that property. And we both said, “This is the place.” I asked others about it and all felt that this would be a beautiful location for our band of beleivers. And so the Lord provided the means and within weeks, as I recall, we were there. Our men tore out the interior to make a place of worship. Our women cleaned, and served us food. I remember the day the I-beam was put into place. There was something powerful about that moment. In the meantime, we gathered under a tent, next to our new chapel, and worshipped the living Christ in tents, like Israel in the wilderness. Yet we were perched on the banks of the Jordan, we felt. And as we moved in, I remember preaching, “What Mean Ye by These Stones?” as we crossed over into a new era of our church. I remember. No more Christmas Eve services in the Benedictine chapel (which were marvelous times), or “Vespers on the Green” (soft Sunday afternoon worship times in a park). A new day had come.
I remember how the Lord blessed our times there and how the Lord brought about the first day of our school, Westminster Academy. I stood on the doorsteps of our church and school for that first day, and I welcomed each little child and I prayed that the Lord would encourage them in the Gospel and that they would form the foundation of a Gospel work to bring a Biblical worldview to this generation. I ran off into a hiding place and cried. I cried for joy. I remember. I remember seeing deer out of the window of our “chapel” as I preached. I remember watching our little boy, with the other children, picking grapes that had been planted years before, and laughing as they skipped in the meadow behind the church. And I remember a Christmas Eve service where my son, four years old, fell down the stairs before the service and hurt his foot. After the service, which was happily crowded with families and the children were all playing as children play with such excitement on Christmas Eve, our little lad couldn’t move and he sat on the floor. I picked him up and saw that he was hurt worse than we thought. The next day, Christmas morning, we were in the emergency room and learned that he had indeed broken his foot! And that was to be our last Christmas Eve service there. My Aunt Eva died in the autumn before. I went into a dark night of the soul in my life, even as I rejoiced over what the Lord was doing. I had never wanted to leave that place. But I remember that I felt weak, conflicted, and dry. A call came during that time and I accepted it. We lived in Overland Park even while I served an interim presidential position at a seminary. And eventually that had to turn into something more permanent. Through some ups and downs and miscalculations, and prayer and recovery, we moved to plant Kirk O’ the Isles in Savannah. We enjoyed planting that church and enjoyed the fresh time of ministry, of helping people to discover the grace of Christ that had changed our lives. We saw many conversions there, many re-commitments to Christ, and much fruit in the lives of the good folk we grew to love. From there the Lord surprised us by calling us to First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga. I joyfully served in this challenging but enormously fulfilling position and felt that the congregation there, at least a great majority of them, taught us the art of pastoring. Congregations do that I think. They teach preachers how to pastor as much as seminary professors do. All I know is this: I was an evangelist until I went there. I “became” a pastor at Chattanooga. That was their gift to me. And now I serve the Church by preparing young men to preach and men and women to go to the ends of the earth to declare Christ Jesus as Lord. In my work I travel a great deal, preaching and teaching. This week, for example, I taught preaching in a military context to new chaplain candidates at Fort Jackson. But this morning, I am in Kansas en route to Iowa to preach five times at the Cedar Falls Bible Conference. But Kansas always feels like home. That is what I meant when I wrote the song about it. This morning I will join in prayer at the church that God showed me before ever the first people met. I saw it in my heart by faith. I will lead in the pastoral prayer there. I will greet old parishioners, old friends, and new ones. I will breath in the fresh air of this place, look across her soft rising slopes and valleys, take in the beauty of Christ Jesus in worship, and I will remember. I will remember. I will remember.
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. Psalms 77.11