Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

February 12, 2006


Return to Opelika church a heartwarming experience


          Pastor Mike Roberts blessed me this past week with an invitation to speak at his Valentine Banquet. So, with my sweetheart of 54 years at my side, I returned to the grand old church on Second Avenue that I had served for 13 years.

          Trinity United Methodist Church never looked so good. It was a festive night adorned with Valentine decorations, balloons, a good meal, and a dessert topped off with a heart-shaped chocolate. I know “nice” is a hackneyed word but that best describes the occasion. It was a nice evening that allowed Valentine’s Day to come early for me this year.

          Getting hugged by good friends is one of the best things in life. I hugged more women that night than any time I can remember. Most of the men gave me a hug as well and that was special. They all know I am a hugger and proud of it. A stiff, polite handshake is simply not enough when good friends meet each other after months of separation.

          The beautiful fellowship hall was packed. Am I bragging? You bet I am! How often does an old warhorse get to preach to a packed house? I was thrilled beyond words; well, almost!  I told one man it looked like the usual Sunday night crowd when I was pastor there. Not wanting to burst my balloon with the truth, he changed the subject.

          The size of the crowd spoke more about the strength of the church than about my speaking. That is what thrilled me most – to see that the church is strong and growing. Mike and his fine staff are providing good leadership and the people are responding. That warms my heart.

          I felt like John did when he wrote the elder (3 John): “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Some of the good people at Trinity are like my children in the faith, and it thrills me to see them growing and being nourished within the fellowship of believers.

          Several proud young parents showed me children who were born since I retired four years ago. Some of them I had married so it was wonderful to see the precious fruit of their marriage. I felt such great joy as I embraced these beaming moms and dads and their little ones!

          Most of the people did not look a day older. I will admit that one or two had aged considerably but they will remain nameless. The passing years do take their toll on our appearance but our best friends help us by lying about how good we look. The wonderful thing is that even though the body grows weaker, the spirit can remain strong and vigorous to the end. The secret, of course, is the indwelling Christ!

          My night at Trinity was not all joy. There was the quiet sadness of recalling the faces of several who were missing. Some of them were such dear friends and beloved co-workers in the Lord’s work. I miss them even though I rejoice to know that they have graduated from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant. They await us on the other side and I know it will not be long before I shall see them again. Right now they are pulling for us, leaning over the banisters of heaven and cheering for us.

          I came home reflecting on the honor God gave me to know and work with these good people. They are the salt of the earth, ordinary folks whom God is using to do extraordinary things. They are Methodists but actually more than that; they are Christians, the people God continues to use to let the world know how much He loves them.

          They are not perfect, but I thought I heard the Lord saying Wednesday night, “Don’t lose heart my children; don’t be discouraged. Just hold my hand; love one another, keep up the good work and you will be fine.”

          The mission of Jesus Christ is not finished. There is so much more that needs to be done, so many people who have never heard the old, old story of Jesus and his love. But, as long as there are churches like Trinity, the work will go on, and for that we can all give thanks. + + + +