Hitting Our Stride
By Rev. Keith Turman | 2021-09-24 | 4 min read
Bryan Zehr shares the story of a young couple who lived in a neighborhood frequented by an ice cream truck. Every afternoon, the ice cream truck would make its rounds and would always come down their street, driving slowly in front of each house—especially the ones with toys in the yard. It’s what ice cream trucks do. You could hear this guy coming from a mile away—his loud speakers playing the kind music that lures kids to the sidewalk—with eyes wide and mouths open—they run as fast as their little legs can carry them. This couple did not want to be embroiled in a daily battle with their young son about whether or not he could have an ice cream, so early on, when they heard it coming, they told him it was the music truck. The music truck is coming. So every afternoon, they would say, “Oh! Here comes the music truck!” And it worked! Every afternoon they would dance to the sounds coming from the music truck. They were so proud of themselves—such a clever move. One Saturday, they were painting the back bedroom—engaged in conversation—and they didn’t hear it in time. Before they could put their paint brushes down, their son came running into the living room with the most beautiful expression of sheer joy that they had ever seen: “Mom! Dad! The music truck is really an ice cream truck! Can I have some ice cream?”
Sometimes I wonder—could it be that there is more to our congregation—that the music truck is really an ice cream truck? Stewardship season, by design, gives us an opportunity to wonder about such things. We ask questions about our identity. We evaluate our purpose and calling. We assess the needs of our congregation and the needs of our community. We do this knowing that God has created us, gifted us, and called us to extraordinary things. Our stewardship theme this year is “Hitting Our Stride: Leaving Footprints that Matter.”
I am quick to say to anyone who will listen, “First United Methodist Church Waynesville is an extraordinary group.” You inspire me and give me hope. The past eighteen months have been crazy—but you have been my strength. When everything shut down last year, you didn’t shut down. When we worried about no offering plates, we discovered that we didn’t need offering plates—because you are you, and 2020 was the second largest giving year in our history. When we worried about our members staying connected and cared for—you stepped it up. You made your phone calls and wrote your letters and figured out how to Zoom. When our reality was solitude and isolation, we were somehow nourished by a sense of togetherness and connectedness. When we worried about our community, we discovered that you never stopped being the church. The homeless community had bathrooms and hot showers; families needing food felt your love at the Friendship House food pantry and the Manna pop-up events. And a month ago, when our community was literally under water, your response was overwhelming. You are making a difference.
The Apostle Paul is in jail when he writes his letter to the church in Ephesus: “I, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). I suppose when you’re in prison you’ve got lots of time to think about stuff—about the things that really matter. Paul begs the church to live a life that matters—to live well. When we do that—when we’re hitting our stride and leaving footprints that matter—the world discovers that the music truck is really an ice cream truck. When people come running—eyes wide with possibility and hope—we can proclaim with an equal amount of joy: “Of course you can have some ice cream!”