As we drove from Ossipee to Mirror Lake in the early morning of Sunday the 18th, my forthright wife from her seat behind the wheel said, "You know, Arthur, this could be your swan song at Mirror Lake Church. You'd better thank them for the ride."
One doesn't like to think that one might die before next summer comes around. Or, that maybe that wonderful congregation to whom I've preached for probably 35 to 40 summers might say this time, "Well, we enjoy Arthur, but he is 90 now, maybe we should not bother to invite him in the years ahead."
As we walked slowly from the new parking area behind the church around to the front door, there on the wall above the coffee table were colorful festive letters spelling out, "Happy Birthday." That added some mystery to the day.
A number of people greeted us as friends. The bell rang. The service began with a welcome from one of the lay committee, who speculated on the number of years Molly and I had been coming to speak to them. 1985 was the year they had on their books. It had been a long time. We were close to a number of the people.
Molly gave a beautiful word about our ministry in Rwanda and Burundi. I gave my sermon on the "Meaning of Ministry" from Romans 10, "How shall they hear without a preacher?"
It was the great ministry text from Romans by my New Testament teacher in Scotland back in 1952. He had meant everything to me. That great cry of Paul to the Romans was the watchword for James Stewart. And in that year it became mine, too.
We had loved the Mirror Lake Church - and a number of other small New Hampshire churches that had welcomed us over the years.
And what a privilege it was for me to preach about "ministry" to those people who cared as much about their church.
Of course I hope it won't be the last time. But - "you never know." Life is full of surprises. And, the great surprise is each day that God gives us to live. Molly and I both felt privileged to be there- in Jesus' name - that beautiful August Sunday.
We sang, "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder." I gave the benediction. I offered to pray for anyone who wanted it. Six or seven people lined up to ask for prayer. It was a deep time.
Then they said, "We want you outside for coffee." As we rounded the corner, they all sang, "Happy Birthday!" Such a surprise. Many kindly words of affirmation and encouragement.
All joy for us. Just wanted you to know.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES