For many, the most emotional moment came when our veterans marched into the sanctuary during the singing of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” We are grateful for their service to our country, and the tribute you offered them Sunday was most appropriate. Each year I am moved by the fact that there are persons who no longer are with us for this tribute. Earlier in the service Sunday we stood and rang the church bell in memory of John Greer. He served in the Navy during World War II and was an usher in this church for 41 years. We had his memorial service yesterday in the chapel. I really missed seeing John and others in the procession Sunday, but we are grateful for each of these men and women. I appreciate the leadership provided in the service by our members Spencer Brewer (US Navy during World War II) and Pat Epps (US Air Force from 1957-1963). It was a good day at Peachtree Road.
Since Sunday, we have experienced more tragedy in our world. We have witnessed another terrorist attack, this time in Istanbul where suicide bombers killed 42 innocent people and wounded over 200 more. A few weeks ago I had lunch with Thomas Kemper, the General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries for the United Methodist Church. Thomas was sitting in the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul when he heard the explosion and gunfire. People started running and the lounge emptied in seconds as chaos reigned. Kemper said he experienced a wide range of emotions from fear (Am I going to die?) to confusion (Why are these people so intent on taking innocent lives?) to resolve (Evil will not have the final word!).
Earlier this week I remembered the words of Presbyterian minister and television personality Fred Rogers who once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” In the wake of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and personal tragedies, let us take Fred Rogers’ advice and not be afraid. Look for the helpers…and resolve to be the helpers… and remember Jesus’ words, “…I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Here at the church, this has been the week for Vacation Bible School. Over 220 children were in attendance every day to enjoy a fun time of singing, learning, making crafts, and growing in their faith. This year’s theme was “Surf Shack: Catching the Wave of God’s Amazing Love” and I am grateful to Martha Christopher, Jordan Black, and their amazing team that helped make this a great week for these elementary-aged children.