A Pastoral Message for the People of St. John’s Baptist Church of Charlotte, NC,
by The Rev. Dennis Foust, PhD, Senior Minister, on September 11, 2022
Scriptures: Colossians 3:12-15
One children’s Sunday School class closed their time together each week by interlacing their fingers and repeating the familiar rhyme with a twist: “Here’s the church building and here’s the steeple; open the doors and here are the people.” The teacher did this each week to reinforce the truth that the church is people, not a building nor an address. One Sunday, a new boy came to the class. The teacher had never met him or his family. They were first time guests on that Sunday. She noticed the boy’s left arm stopped at his elbow. At the end of class, as the children prepared to recite the rhyme, she started toward the new boy, but then stopped as she noticed a young girl taking her left hand and putting it up against the boy’s right hand. She interlocked her fingers with his and said to her new friend, “Let’s make a church together.” Beloved, welcome to a new church year. Let’s continue to make a church together.
Let’s interlock our fingers and our commitments with Walter, Micah, Molly and all the other children of our church today – and their parents – and grandparents – and our youth – and their families and other adults of all ages. Let us renew ourselves to the spirit emphasized in today’s reading of scripture. Let us renew ourselves to compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Let us bear with one another, forgive one another – for just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And, above all, express God’s love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Let the peace of Jesus Christ rule in your hearts with thanksgiving.
Today, we set apart Anna McLeod Cushman, Matt Comer, and Molly Belong to be servant leaders among us. They commit to ‘thinking others first and acting on behalf of church health and vitality,’ ‘investing in their own spiritual growth,’ and ‘initiating actions of missional stewardship.’ They realize that the church is becoming what its deacons choose to be.
Some of you are not serving this year as deacons or on a resource team or as a teacher. However, each of you can interlace your life in active faith as servants to make a church together.
The story is told that Dr. Frank Mayfield was touring Tewksbury Institute, in Massachusetts when, on his way out, he accidentally collided with an elderly floor maid. To cover the awkward moment, he started asking questions. “How long have you worked here?” “I’ve worked here almost since the place opened,” she replied. “You have seen a lot of care here then, haven’t you? “Have you seen the basement,” she asked. “No,” he answered. After they reached the basement, she pointed to what looked like a small prison cell, its iron bars rusted with age. Then, she said, “That’s the cage where they used to keep Annie.” “Who’s Annie?” the doctor asked. “Annie was brought here as a young girl because she was incorrigible. Nobody could do anything with her. She’d bite and scream and throw her food at people. The doctors and nurses couldn’t examine her or anything. I’d see them trying with her spitting and scratching at them. I was only a few years younger than her myself at that time and I used to think, ‘I sure would hate to be locked up in a cage like that.’ I wanted to help her, but I didn’t have any idea what I could do. I mean, if the doctors and nurses couldn’t help her, what could someone like me do?” “I didn’t know what else to do, so I just baked her some brownies one night after work. The next day I brought them in. I walked carefully to her cage and said, ‘Annie, I baked these brownies
just for you. I’ll put them right here on the floor and you can come and get them if you want.’ Then I got out of there just as fast as I could because I was afraid she might throw them at me. But she didn’t. She ate the brownies and then she was just a little bit nicer to me when I was around. Sometimes I’d talk to her. Once, I even got her laughing. One of the nurses noticed this and she told the doctor. They asked if I’d help them with Annie. I said I would if I could. That’s how it started; every time they wanted to see Annie or examine her, I went into the cage first and explained what was about to happen and calmed her down and held her hand. This is how they discovered Annie was almost blind.” After they’d worked with her for about a year—the Perkins institute for the Blind opened its doors. They were able to help Annie and she went on to study and she became a teacher herself. Annie came back to the Tewksbury Institute to visit now and then and to help if she could. One day, the director told Annie about a letter he had received from a father who was concerned about his daughter.
He said she was uncontrollable —almost like an animal. She was blind and deaf. And that is how Annie Sullivan became the lifelong companion of Helen Keller.”
Annie Sullivan touched Helen Keller’s life in ways that allowed Helen Keller to change the world for many people. Yet, these lives would never have been changed if an unnamed maid had not baked and delivered brownies.
Please turn to someone near you, intertwine your fingers with theirs as we recite the rhyme,
“Here’s the church building and here’s the steeple,
Open the doors and here’s the people.”
ST. JOHN’S, LET’S CONTINUE TO MAKE A CHURCH TOGETHER!