Remarks: Lives of Commitment 2015

Arguably, one of the prominent theologians of the twentieth century is the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. In one of my favorite quotes, he reflects on what it means to be a truly great community. He says, “A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.”
When I think of the lives that we celebrate today, I believe that they represent those who give themselves to service and commit themselves to love in the way Heschel challenges us. When I read about the countless hours they spend driving, taking folks grocery shopping, leading others through grief, and what they have done for the developmentally disabled and those with mobility issues, I see that they have chosen to embody a life of service and love.
We live in a society that revolves around the resumes and the accomplishments that represent to others whether we are worthy of respect. Often the primary focus is on the positions of prestige and power that we have attained. We note the presidencies and the chairs we have held. But these folks that we honor today choose to see that the most important element on the resume is the love we are able to share and the good we are able to do. I am humbled by their activity and inspired to find my place in the service of others and to demonstrate love in actions of charity and grace for those who are not capable of reciprocating it.
And there are others in this room who have taken the life of service very seriously – serious enough that they do not only want to serve others in a direct way but volunteer in organizations that have made the life of service a value that organizes them. Today there are many non-profits in our community that help us organize our service and help us make a greater impact on our community that we could possibly do by ourselves. Many of you sit on their boards and help our community to be a kind and generous place to live. I want to take a moment right now and thank you for your service.
For the past eight years I have been privileged to serve one of these organizations as its executive director. The Broome County Council of Churches is the parent organization for Faith in Action Volunteers, CHOW and our hospital and jail ministry programs. Each week we touch thousands of lives, reaching out to many who are going through some of the worst experiences we can imagine. My board of directors and our development committee members know that our mission is “to connect compassion with needs and to inspire growth with dignity. “ And they make this mission a reality by serving on our board and helping to raise funds for our organization to do its important work. If you serve on our board of directors or on our development committee, please rise. Thank you.
I serve as executive for this amazing organization, because of the faithful service of other executives who have preceded me in this position. Every day I am reminded of both Bill Stanton and Ken Cable and their legacy of service they left behind. This morning, members of both of their families are present with us, and I believe that their spouses Betty Stanton and Grace Cable are here. I want to take a moment to thank them for their husband’s service to the Broome County Council of Churches. Thank you.
Another of the theologians that I have long respected is John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. One of the famous quotes from Wesley is an ethical imperative. He says, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Let’s hear these words and the lives that we have celebrated as a challenge. Today let us go out and find a life to touch, do some good just for the sake of doing good not because we want to be noticed or have the work reciprocated, and let us go out and live a life of commitment.
And as you go, May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.