Sara Faye and I married in June 1967 and this year we mark 40 years of wedded life. We celebrated last weekend by splurging on a first-time, Friday-Monday getaway to New York City. It was a delightful surprise to the primary honoree (who, unlike me, loves surprises) and she first discovered our destination when she saw the “LaGuardia” sign above our boarding gate at Houston’s Intercontinental Airport. (I derived special pleasure in dropping confusing hints for two weeks before the trip.) Like millions of other visitors to America’s largest city, we were awed by the concentration of skyscrapers, museums, historical sites and international cultures. We also were indulged by the meals both elegant and ethnic, tired by the walking and unnerved by the taxi rides. On Saturday night, we thrilled to the enduring Broadway musical production of Les Miserables with its powerful tale of transforming grace.
On Sunday (which was “Father’s Day” in the USA), we took a taxi three or four miles uptown to worship with the Manhattan Church of Christ. This congregation gathers from throughout Manhattan and adjacent boroughs of the larger City. The 350 or so who assemble in three Sunday services (two English; one Spanish) include Whites of diverse racial origins, Blacks (African-Americans plus immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa), Hispanics from various homelands, plus people from many other countries around the world. The congregation includes students, blue-collar workers, homeless persons and prosperous professionals. To worldly eyes it is an ungainly ethnic and socioeconomic mix. However, eyes of faith discern an outpost of God’s coming kingdom populated by one new humanity in Jesus Christ.
The preacher is one of the elders and a long-time member, Dr. Tom Robinson, a friend and former classmate with whom I used to study undergraduate and graduate Greek assignments at Abilene Christian College (now University). After ACU, Tom earned an M.Div. from Princeton and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He then taught for several decades at Union Theological Seminary in New York and consulted for Reader’s Digest on its Bible-related publications before assuming his full-time pastoral tasks with the Manhattan Church of Christ. I have long admired this gifted scholar who, with a wealth of top-tier education and experience, remains one of the most humble, devoted and “ordinary” servants of Christ I know.
On this occasion, Tom preached from Acts 13, focusing on Paul’s tribute to ancient David who “served the purpose of God in his own generation [and] fell asleep” (v. 36). With passion and power Tom urged us all to make our own lives meaningful, however long or short they might be, by serving God’s purpose in our own time and place. In this way, he noted, we also become links in a great chain of faithful women and men through the centuries, some of whose stories the Bible records but others who live and serve God long after the Bible was written. It was an appropriate sermon for Father’s Day, needful for all those starting their adult lives and careers. It was also a sermon which, as grandparents of four preschoolers, Sara Faye and I hope never to forget.