It’s common for pastors to do a sermon series in worship. They often have a predictable length, typically from three to six weeks. Well, for the first time in my career, I am going to offer the second part of an “unintentional” sermon series A FULL YEAR AFTER THE FIRST PART!
It all started innocently enough. Last September I was honored to preach in the Sanctuary Worship services on the same Sunday that our third graders received their Bibles from our church. Each year they are given in memory of Melissa Dearden by her parents, Dr. Craig & Margaret Dearden. Their continued generosity makes a difference in ways that none of us can fully appreciate from year to year. The bright light of Melissa’s life lives on in the pages of these treasured Bibles that our children will once again be receiving this Sunday at the 11:00 am Sanctuary Worship service.
As I always do, last year I brought my third grade Bible that I was given from the Methodist Church in my hometown of Mt. Morris, Illinois. I talked about Mr. Harold Sterenberg, the kind man who signed the inside of my Bible as our Sunday School Superintendent. Soon after that Sunday, Jan and I went back to Mt. Morris to visit and to bring them copies of last year’s enews with the picture of my Bible. And as always is the case in a small town, the news of this travelled quickly and it led to a wonderfully unexpected letter that I received last November from Harold’s wife, Mrs. Marcia Sterenberg. You can see a copy of her letter here — printed neatly on notebook paper and signed with a beautiful cursive writing style. Here are portions of the letter that I especially cherish: “It was extremely heart-warming to read the paragraph about my husband, Harold, and to view the cover page of your Bible received October 16, 1966. (That is my handwriting.) It has been almost 16 ½ years since Harold entered God’s Holy Kingdom and to have someone remember him in print truly makes me and my daughters grateful.”
Since I have been given the opportunity again to preach on the same Sunday as our third graders will receive their Bibles, I recently called Marcia and asked permission to share her letter with all of you. Her words said “yes” and the sound of her voice gave me the impression that this will please her very much. We talked about our children and grandchildren. I learned that her daughter, Cheryl, is a certified school nurse in one of the Chicago suburbs; and her daughter, Julie, is an elementary school counselor in a small community in Iowa. Marcia was bursting with pride as she talked about these two accomplished and caring adults that she and her husband raised, always depending upon their faith in God and the loving community of their United Methodist Church.
The blessings contained in each and every third grade Bible truly last a lifetime. There is certainly a “heart” found in the pages of scripture that transfers extraordinary energy, power and peace to every one of us. Let’s celebrate that together in worship on Sunday, as we enthusiastically say BRAVO to our third graders and their families!
Dr. Mike Marshall
Associate Pastor of Leadership Development