In the ten years since I left California, things have changed. Businesses have been built up, torn down, opened and closed and replaced one another. My best friend got married and has a wonderful son. My high school's football team has become a powerhouse, winning three statewide championships.
And my home church has grayed tremendously. It is no exaggeration to say I saw no kids at church yesterday. A few high schoolers, but that was about it. A lot of those who were there when we moved to town in 1979 are still there, though some have left town. We used to have as many there in each of the two services as were there for the only service yesterday. But the pastor is bi-lingual and also conducts a Spanish service on Saturday nights, so that is good.
My mind ran wild with memories during the service. Over there was the space which, before the remodel, was the sacristy where Pastor Rauschek asked me to consider becoming a pastor in 1986. There my dad and the president of the congregation talked to my confirmation class about their work on the Church Council. There, at that very altar, beneath that stained glass of our Christ praying in Gethsemane, was the place where I was fed the first of many times with my Savior's body and blood. In this sanctuary, between mother and father, I learned to sing such great hymns and canticles as we sang yesterday - "A Mighty Fortress" of course, and "Let the Vineyards be Fruitful Lord" and "O Lord, We Praise Thee" and "Thy Strong Word" - which also rang out as I approached that altar with the lovely and gracious Miss Laura Lee Schulz, and pledged before God and the witnesses present to love and cherish her all my days. I later stood next to her over there in the current sacristy with Pastor Moon looking on as she signed her name Laura Leistico. And then a year later I stood in that pulpit to preach my first sermon after becoming a pastor - and then less than a week later, my second as I had the privilege of officiating at my sister's wedding.
Pastor had an excellent sermon on Romans 3, with a little Matthew 11 sprinkled in. Amazing I remember much with all the talking my heart was doing. But the Word of God cut like a sword through all of it to give me the anchor of eternal things as I was grieving the loss of things temporal. And this a charitable donation from God to us (Pastor said that was the best synonymn he could find using Microsoft Word since he felt like he had said "free gift" too much.) Surely God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in my time of trouble. And though my parents' residence has changed, and I can't go home again, at least not to my boyhood home, there is that eternal city of God made glad by the river of life. That is my home, the thing I long for, where sorrow and sighing flee away, and the word "goodbye" never need be uttered again. Until then I take heed as my wife's favorite Bible verse is placed within my heart again - "Be still and know that I am God."