This coming Sunday will be one of those wonderful celebrations in our 11:00 am Sanctuary worship service. About 50 third-graders will be presented with their own Bibles from our church. They are given in memory of Melissa Dearden, who was a bright and loving light in our Children’s Ministries slightly over 20 years ago. Her parents continue to make a difference in her name through these treasured Bibles!
The picture you see is the inner cover of my Bible that was given to me when I was in third grade. As you can tell from the date, this happened a long, long time ago! In fact, our denomination’s merger with the Evangelical United Brethren Church was still two years away. So, we were simply called The Methodist Church — with “United” being added later in honor of the merger. My hometown of Mt. Morris, Illinois, had a population that was about half the size of the membership of First United Methodist of Fort Worth. As you can imagine, there were not very many of us who received our Bibles that fall day in 1966. I’m guessing that our entire kindergarten through fifth grade Sunday School barely had 50 children present on any given Sunday. My playful comment to this is that “we may have been small — but we were scrappy.” My more thoughtful reflection of that time in my life is that “I never doubted that I was loved by my sweet church community.” For me . . . that has made all the difference in the world.
If you look closely at the picture, you can see that it was filled out by Harold Sterenberg, who was called our Sunday School Superintendent. There are a few things I remember about him. During the week when I was riding my bike around town, I often saw him on a ladder dressed in his white T-shirt and white painter’s pants. He literally was a house painter by vocation. When he was working, he usually had a small cigar stub in the corner of his mouth (that he probably chewed more than smoked). And whenever he saw me, he never failed to stop working and wave his hand toward me. If this is beginning to sound like a “Norman Rockwell scene,” I now realize as an adult that it truly was like that. I also remember that Mr. Sterenberg sang in our small adult choir at church. This was a bit of a challenge for him because he was noticeably hard-of-hearing. It was usually a safe bet that whenever the anthem came to a conclusion his voice could still be heard as an unintended solo for about three or four seconds. But that didn’t matter because the constant smile on his face showed that he was a beautiful and sincere instrument of God’s presence and peace.
My point is this: 50 years from now, our current third-graders will be adults. They will have families, meaningful jobs, and memories of their childhood. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each one of them will be able to occasionally pause, pull their well-worn Bible off their shelf, and reread the inscription on their inner cover? And wouldn’t it be even more than wonderful if they will be able to tell their treasured stories of growing up in First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth to their children and grandchildren? Friends . . . each of you has the golden opportunity to live your life in a faithful manner that will make you a part of their stories. Because of you, the words of Psalm 119:105 will have been made real and authentic to them: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday!
Dr. Mike Marshall,
Associate Pastor of Leadership Development
Psalm 119:1-5, 105
Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart — they do no wrong but follow his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.