In all of my other churches, my last newsletter began like this…
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Some years ago, I did something I rarely do… I saw a movie. The movie I saw was “Nanny McPheee.” At the time I rented it I had no idea it was so relevant to the life of the church. Though I had never heard of it, I liked what I saw on the cover. “A modern day Mary Poppins story’ it read (or some such thing).
At the beginning of the movie the viewers are shown an empty chair. The chair represents the mother of the family who died some time ago… leaving her husband to care for their seven children. Unfortunately, what time and attention he once gave them grows smaller and smaller with time. With the loss of their mother, and the growing distance between themselves and their father, the children’s world grows even darker. They learn they must fend for themselves… they learn others are not to be trusted…they “see through a mirror dimly.” In desperation for their father’s attention, the children work hard to drive away every single nanny he hires…and they succeed. 17 nannies come and go before Nanny McPhee arrives on the scene.
In the beginning, Nanny McPhee looks a bit like an old hag…complete with warts, a big nose, one large tooth which hangs outside her mouth, eyebrows that run together as one, etc. Not the sort of nanny one would normally hire, but the family is out of options. Nanny McPhee it is. She tells them she is there to teach them five lessons. Of course, the children rebel against her immediately. “We don’t want you Nanny McPhee!” one of the children tells her. To which she replies, “Right now you don’t want me but you do need me so I must stay. However a day is coming when you will want me, but you will no longer need me and then I must go.” As each of the lessons is learned, Nanny McPhee loses one or more of the unsightly things the family sees whenever they look at her (her warts, her big nose, the tooth that sticks out, etc.) until, by the time she leaves, all the family sees is her beauty.
As I look back at my time here at United Presbyterian Church, I realize my journey with the church has been a little like Nanny McPhee’s journey with the children. She came at a time when she was needed and left when that need ended. Like Nanny McPhee, I come so I might go…leaving the church ready for the one who will be here permanently…or at least for the next many years.
And just as the children learned some valuable lessons from Nanny McPhee during her time with them, I hope my time with this church has reminded you of some valuable lessons. Lessons such as…
- The work of the church doesn’t belong to the handful of elders that make up the Session. The great commission…the promotion of God’s kingdom…belongs to all who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior. As the Body of Christ, each member of the Body is called to do their share…to pull their weight…giving of their time, talent, and money to grow God’s kingdom.
- The proof of one’s salvation is found in one’s “fruit.” Jesus said, “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) The fruit of those actively participating in the work and worship of the church is visible to those both within and outside of the church.
- The church doesn’t have to be “uniform” to be “unified.”
- Welcoming the stranger is one way to get people into church. Discipleship is a way to keep them.
- Sometimes those who appear to have the smallest of gifts are the lynch pins of the church. As the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
This church has a great history of discipleship, missions, and ministries. May it be your present and future as well!