Molly and I went on a preaching mission today. In a small pristine New England Meeting House, facing a lovely upland meadow, with Mt. Whiteface of the Sandwich Range, rising high behind it.
The almost invisible town is Wonalancet, named for a chief among the Ossipee Indians, who long ago was a great peacemaker between the Indian people and the encroaching white settlers. It is also the name of our last and dearest dog, a handsome Sheltie, who climbed many a mountain trail with our family, and then alone with me when our children had grown through their teen years and were only visitors in Ossipee summers. So "Wonalancet" is an honored name with us.
I came as a child to Wonalancet Chapel when my father preached there on his summer circuit, just as my children came with me when I got to preach there on occasional summer Sundays.
Now, Molly and I do it together. She stands up, early in the service and tells the story of our call from God to the healing work of reconciliation in the dark and wounded countries of Africa, following the demonic hatred of the Rwanda genocide which led neighbors to kill neighbors in the four months of blood-letting from April through July of 1994.
It was just when we left parish ministry, ourselves wounded, and sent by World Vision with whom our Edina churches worked to fight the East African famine in the early 1980's.
When she arrived in Rwanda, she asked God why He had brought her there. His answer came loud and clear. "I have brought you here to ask their forgiveness for what you, and your people of the West, did to divide them from each other."
She took that seriously. In the retreats, and my visits to churches there, she said, "I am sent to ask your forgiveness, for what we westerners did to divide you from each other. I am going to my knees here. I ask you to pray for my forgiveness." It was a stunning experience for the Rwandans. Over and over they said, "We have never seen anything like this." That act became the mark of our ministry. That ministry on our knees became the sign to them that we were authentic, for real, and made our whole deep ministry of healing and reconciliation possible.
For my part today I tried to speak of "Your Life of Power," reminding them of Dr. Luke's word to Theophilus in Acts, of Jesus promising His disciples that they were to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, and receive power to proclaim His love to all the world through His death and resurrection.
It was a word to say we who follow Jesus are the Spirit people with the gift of power through the Spirit to tell the story of Jesus' miraculous and transforming love.
Simple, I hope, and straightforward, calling this little company of ten people to receive the Spirit and trust His power to help them do what they were probably afraid to do: to "tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love."
No one walked out or grumped about the message. Perhaps being 90 and 88 as two old people telling what they know, helped. We held hands as a sign of our love for the benediction at the end.
People greeted us amicably enough at the door. One woman, our host said, "We'll see you next summer."
Who knows what happens in the human heart? Molly and I love the privilege of that little chapel and it's tiny congregation. There will be one more at the Mirror Lakes Church in Wolfeboro in August.
It is just as challenging as the years at Colonial Church, and before that at our country church in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, and our city church in Newton, Massachusetts. It is the same high call, the same challenge to speak true to whomever will stop and listen at these high times.
The result, the change, is in God's hands, not mine. I am just so grateful for the opportunity, and that now, in our old age, Molly and I can do it together.
Oh, the privilege of small things, at the end of life.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES