Ken’s dream had always been to join the Mounties, but WWII and then raising a family caused him to take a different path. He never lost the dream; he just took a different approach. At the age of 80, he wrote to the Band Officer and asked, "If I was to learn the bagpipes, could I parade with you just once?" The Band Officer responded in the affirmative and we thought that would be it.
It was the last Sunday of September, 2003, and I was busy getting the pipe band tuned and ready to march onto Parliament Hill for the annual Police Memorial. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a very elderly fellow, grinning from ear to ear, all kitted out in Red Serge and looking as proud as punch. "Donald, this is Ken, he’ll be parading with us today," said the Drum Major, "I want you to keep an eye on him." It was then I remembered him asking a week before if I knew CPR. I didn’t need to worry; despite the ninety minute stand, he remained in position without a waver – while folks a third of his age were having troubles.
Ken continued to parade with us until his 90th year when the long stands became just a bit too much. While he continues to support us, in the past 10 years he has also taken up the harp and the organ, published two novels, and purchased a fire-engine red mustang convertible. Oh, and he reads to the "old folks" in the local senior’s home.
Trying new things, or taking a different approach, is something that makes many people a bit uncomfortable. Ken, on the other hand, relished the adventure and the challenge of something new. But no matter what he decided to do, he never compromised himself or his integrity. Changing the way we do things does not mean we abandon our roots – maintaining that foundational sense of who we are, and whose we are, is important.
What does it mean to say we are Christians, and we are followers of Jesus Christ? I borrowed the following paragraph from a Face Book post. The author is unknown, but I thought it offered a simple perspective on what it means when we say, "I am a Christian?"
"When I say that I am a Christian, I am not shouting that I am clean living. I am whispering that I once was lost but now I’m found and forgiven. When I say that I am a Christian, I don’t speak of this with pride. I’m confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide. When I say that I am a Christian, I am not trying t be strong. I’m professing that I’m weak and need His strength to carry on. When I say that I am a Christian, I am not bragging of success. I’m admitting that I’ve failed and need God to clean my mess. When I say that I am a Christian, I am not claiming to be perfect. My flaws are far too visible, but God thinks I am worth it. When I say that I am a Christian, I still feel the sting of pain. I have my share of heartaches so I call upon his name. When I say that I am a Christian, I am not holier than thou. I am just a simple sinner who received God’s grace somehow."
The author of the Book of Hebrews provides some solid foundational material on how we should approach the Christian Way, particularly in the final chapter where it says: "Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. 4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." 6 So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" 7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13: 1-8 (NIV)
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." As followers of Jesus, we can be comforted to know that amidst any change or new approach He is the constant and provides us with a firm foundation from which to move.
We, as a congregation, have an opportunity to learn new approaches and perhaps experience different results. Knowing who we are and whose we are, we can be confident that our leadership has our best interests at heart. So if the Pastor wants us to smile in church, let’s all do it.