1 Thessalonians 5: 16-28
A man was reading his paper early one morning at the breakfast table. His wife came over to him, gave him a hug, smiled, and said, “I bet you don’t know what today is, do you?” He looked at her and said, “Of course I know what day it is!” and went back to reading his paper. The reality was that he didn’t have a clue. He was afraid that he would make his wife upset – she was really sensitive about special occasions. He thought to himself, “Is it her birthday? That must be it.” So after he got to work he called the florist and had a bouquet of white roses sent to his wife. Then as the day went on, he began worrying that flowers may not be enough for such an important day. “What if it’s our anniversary?” So he went to the jewelry store down from his office, picked out a beautiful gold necklace and had it special delivered to his wife.
As he started home from work he decided that maybe he should also stop and buy an expensive box of chocolates to bring to her – just in case. He pulls into the driveway and his wife runs out to greet him. As he gets out of the car and presents her with the box of chocolates, she throws her arms around him and says, “Oh, honey, this is the best ground hog day I’ve ever had!”
And today is a doubly special day. We are beginning our celebration of our national holiday of Thanksgiving AND we are recognizing a major milestone in the life of our local church—Its 50th anniversary!
So, today, we gather in this building that has become an Annual Meeting place for our congregation on Thanksgiving. Our hope in the future is to have our own Family Life Center. Until then, we are thankful this place that is available for us.
For a few minutes let’s pause and give thanks for how God has blessed us as a church here in Branson!
I. WE REJOICE AND GIVE THANKS FOR OUR HERITAGE.
a. The Church of the Nazarene came into existence because God moved on the hearts of godly men and women to preach the message that a person could not only be forgiven of his sins, but he could also be delivered from the power of sin through the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit made possible through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning death and resurrection.
b. Dr. Phineas F. Bresee was the one that God used to establish the first church that was named Church of the Nazarene. He had a burden for the lost and impoverished people in Los Angeles, California. And He preached that a person could have a pure heart and live a holy life. God anointed that ministry and it spread throughout the West Coast. In 1908 in Pilot Point, Texas, several similar groups from all across the country met together and voted to unite as one and our denomination was officially born.
c. The church in Branson began as a Bible Study Group. The Joplin District was so confident that the church would grow in Branson that the district actually authorized the building of the main sanctuary before the congregation was fully organized! I wish I had more information about those beginning days. I’m sure God laid the church on someone’s heart and that burden motivated that person to begin praying and calling on people. A hand full of people began to meet together in the home of Richard Worley for a few months and then in an old motel that used to be just to the east of the Business 65 Taneycomo Bridge on east 76 Highway—about where the new lower bridge is now located. Dr. Dean Baldwin was the District Superintendent in those days. .
We owe a great debt of gratitude to many unnamed people back then. I am not aware that any of those folks are still around. But what they did 50 years ago laid the foundation for the church we have today.
d. Only God knows how many lives have been touched, how many individuals have come to know Christ, how many people were healed, how many marriages were saved in those 50 years. Eleven pastors served the Branson Church prior to my arrival as Pastor. I have built upon the work they started. I thank God for all that those before us did so that we could have a Church of the Nazarene in Branson today.
II. WE REJOICE AND GIVE THANKS FOR OUR PERSEVERANCE.
a. I can tell you that there were times in the 50 years of our existence when it was questionable as to whether or not the church would survive. In fact, there was a time when it basically shut down for a few weeks. When I came 34 years ago, I was told that Pat and Helen Henry were key people in keeping the church from closing permanently. Pastor Bob Robinson and his wife Alma persevered and together with the Henrys they were able to keep the church alive.
b. I can tell you that it takes people who are willing to stay the course, who are willing to do the work, and who are consistent in attendance and with their tithes and offerings, in order to keep the church alive. I’m sure there were times when they must have been tempted to think, “Is it worth it?—Maybe we should just close down and go to the Methodist Church —or Baptist or Assembly of God, or some other existing church in the area.”
c. When I think of the 11 Pastors who served from 1966 to 1982, I can only imagine the difficulties they faced. One of those pastors, Rev. C.E. Hacker was a member of the church I pastured in Warsaw, MO. . Rev. Hacker planted at least 8 churches in his ministry. He was a very godly man, a real prayer warrior. And it was while he was Branson’s pastor that he suffered a heart attack that forced him into retirement.
d. A scripture that has been very much a key verse for me seems appropriate here: Galatians 6: 9 says, “9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
III. WE REJOICE AND GIVE THANKS FOR OUR FUTURE.
a. I’ve read that the average time a church exists from its birth until it has run its course and closed down is 40 years. In light of that, a 50th Anniversary is indeed a time to celebrate.
b. Many of us enjoyed watching the Olympics this summer. The men’s relay races were awesome. A key factor in a relay race is the passing of the baton. It has to be done at just the right time and done within certain boundaries. Failure to pass the baton correctly means elimination from the race, not matter how fast the team runs.
c. That there are no charter members still around in our local church tells me that God has helped us to pass the baton several times in the past 50 years. And I believe that the future of our church depends on those of us who are here now being diligent in discipling others, helping to develop the Spiritual gifts and leadership abilities, so that we can pass that baton at just the right time. Remember that in relay races if the baton isn’t passed at just the right time, the race is forfeited. God help us to raise up a new Generation of Nazarenes to whom we can trust with the future of our church.
So, today, on this special day of Thanksgiving, let us give thanks. And the greatest thing for which to give thanks is God’s provision for our Salvation!
Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life while revealing to us the very nature of our Heavenly Father, then died on the Cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. On the third Day He arose from the Grave, and now He sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for each of us. Someday, we know not when, He is returning to claim His Bride—each of us who have by faith repented of our sins and accepted Him as Savior and Lord.
Have you made that decision? Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord?
The Bible says that the angels in heaven rejoice when one person turns away from his or her sins and accepts Jesus Christ into their hearts.
Wouldn’t you like to extend our Thanksgiving Day of rejoicing into the very Heavenlies today?
Wouldn’t you like to receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord?