Group: Celtic Nation
On three occasion I have been asked to fill in for our Ministers, a two different Churches. On two of these occassions was able to use the same sermon, I would like to share it with all of you. I hope others out their who have participated in Laity Sundays might share their messages with all us, if other would like to share their own and unique faiths journeys.
A Faiths Journey - by C. S. Cunningham
For those expecting to hear from Tracy this morning, as you can tell I am not Tracy, and for those who do not know Tracy had a baby girl born Tuesday evening all seems to be doing well. I know the next question on everyone?s tough is, where is Rev. Carol. Several weeks ago Rev. Carol asked the Board of diaconate for some time to visit her mother in Florida, to which we agreed. So, we the Board of Deacons decided this would be a wonderful opportunity to have a Laity Sunday. I would like to thank the member of the Board of Deacons for stepping up this morning and assisting with this service.
Please pray with me. ?Lord be with me at this time, let my words be satisfactory to you and let my message be a comfort and help to others. Amen.?
This week begins our journey thru the session we call ?Lent? a time to reflect on our spiritual life, a time to make course changes if need be, a time to renewal and replenish our faith. I would like to take you on a very personnel journey, my faith journey. Not because it is any more remarkable than any of yours, for each of you have your own personnel stories of how you have come to be in this place in time in your own lives. I do it in hopes that as we move through the next 40 days of lent you will reconnect with your own faith?s journey.
My journey begins in a community just 20 miles or so to the West from here, in Nashua. As a youth my family moved to Nashua in the early 60's. And we joined the First Congregational Church of Nashua, that big granite church at the top of Library Hill. Both my parents we active in the life of the church. My father was a deacon and a member of the Prudential Committee. My mother was an active member of several church committees. I attended church school on a regular base and was an active member the church?s youth groups. I was also a member of the church-sponsored Boy Scout troop and received my God and Country award, the highest religious scouting award. Yes you can say the church was an interracial part of my youth. That does not mean to say I did not have questions, the same question that most of each of has at one time or another. Is there really a God? What does all this mean? You know.
As I grew older and left home for prep-school and college, I like most college students I was faced the dilemma; of what do I do on Sunday mornings? On one hand I could get up and go to church, I could get up and study or I could, as I am afraid I did, I could just sleep-in. But something was missing and for the longest time I just could not put my finger on it, until some years later. During this time, I became a ?Holiday Church Goer.?
A year after our graduation Bonnie and I were marred. We had meat at school during our sophomore year. A month after our wedding I was offered the opportunity to join the administrative staff at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. So with a new bride at my side we traveled to this new job and a new community and a new region of the country. What a wonderful and exciting time in our young lives. You see Kutztown was an hour north of Philadelphia, an hour and half from the Great White Way of New York, and two hours from our nation?s capital, Washington, D.C. So many and exciting places to visit and explore, believe we took full advantage these opportunities. Church again took a back seat in our busy lives. But something was missing; there was a hole in my life. It wasn?t until we had been in our new home for some three years before we both came to the conclusion that we need to reconnect with our faith and our spiritual lives. That was what was missing from my life for the past almost seven years.
I do not how many of you have attended a congregational church in the Pennsylvania Dutch region. Let just say there is a world of difference between New England Congregationalism and Pennsylvania Dutch Congregationalism. Let me just say we looked a number of churches before we found one that we felt comfortable in, and we started attending church on some what regular basses.
Let me digress from my faith journey for a moment to tell you something about me personnel. I am the youngest of three. I have a sister and brother both significantly older than I. I know that those of you that have brothers and sisters, or two or more children in your family. Know that each child takes on certain roles within the family dynamics. There?s the helper, the one that helps around the house often without being asked to do so. There is the report, the one who always is ready to report on the activities of his brothers and sisters. And then there is the ?Worry Wart? the one that worries about everything. In my family I was and continue to be the Worry Wart. If there was something to worry about in family they would just turn to me and assured I would take on the job of worrying. Let me tell you it?s a tough job being the one reasonable worrying for the family, but let me report, I did a great job.
As a youth my parents would hold back from telling me things, until there was almost no time for me to do my job of worrying. So it came as no real surprise when one Saturday in the late summer 1982, a month after our first daughter Stephanie was born, and while we were still living in Pennsylvania, that I received a phone call from my parents. It wasn?t unusual for my parents to call, especially now to check up on their new granddaughter. But you now how you can tell right off that something wasn?t just right. Finally my mother said your father has something to tell you. Dad said that during his routine physical the doctor had discovered an aneurysm. He went on to tell me that he was going into the hospital Monday and would be operated on Tuesday morning. Remember I told you that my parents would wait until the last possible moment to tell me things. I could not really fault them for it. What made this situation every worse, it that some years early on Christmases Eve, my father?s brother, Uncle Wally died of as result of an aneurysm that has busted in the same general area where my father was located. And to make matters worse my Aunt Nan, my father?s sister also had an aneurysm this time in a different location and it had been successfully taken care of some years earlier. The doctors say that aneurysm are not heredity, while when all of my father?s brothers and sister-had aneurysm. We their children take certain precautions.
Needles to say after I hung up the phone, the old worrying machine went into over drive. Bonnie and immediately made preparations to leave for New Hampshire. As we backed and drove, I found my self in an almost constant state of prayer. In my prayer I asked God to watch over my father and asked him to see that my father?s surgery went well and that he would have no lasting disabilities, or to take my father home with him. I knew my father would not want to live with any permanent disabilities, and while I was not prepared to lose him, I knew it would be ok. Over the next two days I slept little and hardly ate. You know that if it weren?t for the bad side effects of worrying, it could be a dynamite of a diet plan. On Monday evening I went to the hospital to see dad and to wish him well. During my visit I learned that the aneurysm had grown, and the doctors worried that it might burst prior to surgery the next day. I also learned that they expected him to be in the ICU Unit from 10 to 14 days after the operation and in a regular hospital bed for up to an additional three weeks.
As I left my father?s room, I begin to pray my little prayer. I continued praying as I walked to my car and started of for home. While I waited at the light, just before getting on the highway, I felt an almost indescribable feeling of love and warmth spread throughout my body and my mind was totally cleared of all thoughts. And than God spoke to me. God said simply, ?He will be ok.? As I awoke, I found myself on the highway heading home. A full quarter of a mile from where I had been. As I replayed what God said, ?He will be ok.? I thought for just a moment of what did God mean. Remember I ask two things of God in prayers. The first was that the operation would be successful and that there would be complications. The second was that it would be ok if God took him home with him. For a brief minute I thought I should have asked God, what he meant when he said, ?he will be ok.? But than I realized it did not matter. If my father survived his operation great, but if God called him home with that was ok too. I knew at that moment in time I no longer needed to worry. My father would be ok, no matter how the operation turned out. That night I ate my first complete meal and slept the night away. The next day as my mother and sister left to wait at the hospital, I stayed at home to take care of the yard and other things my father would not be able to do so for some time. Yes, I watched the clock, but I was not worried.
The operation was a success, but the story does not end there. Remember I told you that the doctors had said that my father would be in ICU for about 10 to 14 days and in the hospital for another three weeks or so, while weeks turned into days and days into hours. My father came home on that Sunday. The nurses called my father the miracle patients and the doctors we astonished at his rapped recovery.
I have considered each day that my father has lived since that day back in 1982 as miracle days and I count my blessing to have my father around. (Just yesterday 7/31/04 we celebrated my fathers 89th birthday.)
Remember earlier in this message I stated that once as a youth I quested, is there a God? Today I stand before for you and say. I have no doubts.
Since those late summer days in 1982, my faith?s journey has taken many twists and turns. Now that my question, is there a God has been answered, a new question arose. Am I doing with my life what God wants me to do? What is my calling? For several years I explored that question, what is my calling in this world. I went through career concealing and I even spent a weekend at Andover Newton Seminary exploring the idea of entering the Ministry.
I cannot tell you when I came to full realization that I had along been doing the work that God has asked me to do. God gave each of us certain gifts and talents. In my case God has blessed me with gifts and talents of work with worthy non-profit organizations and empowering those closely associated with these organizations to go into the communities they serve and raise the necessary funds need to carry out their missions. Through my calling to serve God in this manner, I have helped a hospital in Rhode Island to build the states first Bone Marrow Transplant Center, a hospital in Massachusetts to open a state-of -the-art emergency room, a hospital in Connecticut to build and equip a new Intensive Care and Coronary Care Unit. A Girls and Boys Club to build an addition to better serve the children of that community. Today I find my self assisting one hospital to raise the funds necessary to build an integrated Cancer Care Center, another to renovate and expand its Emergency Center. Again when I came to full realization, that what I was already doing, was my calling to serve God. I could turn all that energy that I was expending exploring that question into serving God as he has sent me into this world to do.
I do not now what twist and turns that God has in store for me in the years ahead; I only pray that I will not miss the direction signs along the way. But knowing two of lives biggest question having been answered, ?Is there a God?? a resounding yes, and ?Am I doing Gods work?? another resounding yes has brought a huge measure of peace into my life.
I only hope that by sharing my faith journey at least up to this point will help you explore your own journeys. This period of Lent provides each of us an opportunity not only to follow Jesus faith journeys into the Desert, but an excellent opportunity to reflect on each of our own Journeys, and to greet Easter Morning refreshed and renewed to continue serve God as he has intended us to serve not only him but his people.
What has been your faith Journey?
C.S. Cunningham, Clan Cunningham USA -
Membership Coordinator & New England/New York Region Director
CCUSANE@comcast.netIf there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be.