A few years back I learned about a man named Thomas Thwaites who decided to build a toaster from scratch. Not just from parts, but from scratch. What he embarked on was a roughly nine month journey to recreate the 400 parts of a toaster from 100 different materials. He whittled the materials down to 5 that he thought he could produce: steel, nickel, mica, plastic, and copper, and simplified the construction of the toaster down to it’s essential parts. He mined and smelted his own iron for steel, mined nickel, mica, and tried various ways of making plastic (including the unsuccessful use of potatoes), and after all of his work, he created something that looked vaguely like a toaster and worked for 5 seconds.
Thwaites tells the story of creating his own toaster to help remind us that we are all inheritors of vast amounts of knowledge and experience. That none of us, on our own, can create everything we know about and see. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us.
I remember this every time I put on my robe. It was a gift from my senior pastor, Rev. Craig Hutto, when I was commissioned as a probationary member of the South Georgia Annual Conference. Craig’s knowledge and heart for ministry helped mold and shape me in the earliest days of my ministry. I cherish the memories associated with the days I wore it in worship at Claxton First UMC, St. Paul UMC, and here at Pittman Park UMC. The bars on the sleeves were a gift from Rev. Dr. Brad Brady who was always inviting me to learn and grow as a person, as a leader, and as a disciple of Jesus. Brad was always willing to listen and help me along the way. Just a few months back my robe needed repair and a dedicated layperson from Statesboro First UMC donated his time and talent to this piece of cloth that has come to mean so much to me.
Our church is here because of the work of the many dedicated lay people and clergy leaders who came before us. We are just another generation of Christ followers who are working together to follow after Christ. As we work though, I pray that we won’t forget the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of those who are among us and who have gone before us. May we steward their wisdom and gifts with care and leave the church stronger and better for those who will come after us.
For Jesus. For People. For Community.