November 17, 2010

150 Years and Counting

What does it mean to be a “Seventh-day Adventist”? To be part of the people who have carried that name for 150 years? What have we become in the century and a half since first we could spell our name?

Today, that title has come to encompass everything from Linketts to Adventist World, from Eden Valley to the Heritage Singers, from Desmond Doss to peace activists, from the Pitcairn to Maranatha Flights International, from Ellen White to Barry Black, from jungle schools to Andrews University, from Faith for Today to 3ABN, from Little Debbie to Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue, from the Battle Creek Steam Press to Adventist World Radio. We are Malamulu, River Plate, Avondale, and Montemorelos. We are Arab, Croatian, Jew, Japanese, and Latino. We are from Africa and Iceland.
2010 1537 page25We have been murdered for our faith in the jungles, and we have sung for presidents of the United States. We have been mocked for our beliefs, and honored for our long lives of service. We have been called a cult, and we have been recognized for being decades ahead of our times. We are members of Congress, craftspeople, surgeons, faith healers, school teachers, artists, and computer guys. We are farmers, scientists, beggars, bookkeepers, and bankers. We study dinosaurs, dental implants, digital technologies, and desert fauna. We teach everything from ABCs to quantum physics. We live in boats, huts, trees, apartments, rented garages, tents, and mansions. We have climbed the tallest mountain in the world, and we run marine biology stations.
We are single moms, and hopeful non-moms. We are great-grandfathers and arm-wrestling teenagers. We run mission launches on the wide rivers of South America, and we sing songs of worship in the native tongue of the Mizo people in the mountains of eastern India. We run orphanages across Africa, and we build houses to provide shelter from the bitter cold of a Russian winter. We are rich and poor. We are in prison, and we are on stage.
One thing common to all of us is that our favorite stories all come from the same book. And our favorite character is Jesus. We have experienced every imaginable disease, tragedy, trauma, natural disaster, setback, and loss. We are not immune from suffering, but in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave His life for us.
We are former drug dealers, cannibals, prostitutes, hoboes, thieves, liars, lazy people, gossips, and demon worshippers. We don’t always agree on everything, but the discussions continue. Sometimes we quarrel, but we are committed to continue our journey in love. We have backslidden, missed our cues, lost our way, forgotten our mission, reneged on our promises, accused our brothers and sisters, assimilated the wrong stuff, rebelled, inhaled, retrenched, and somehow—by the grace of God—we are overcoming by the blood of the Lamb.
At any given time there are some of us who are struggling, and some who are breathing a sigh of relief. Some are beginning the race, and some are just crossing the finish line.
We are all over the globe, but we are still pressing on, for there are new territories to enter, new languages to learn, new faces to love, new prejudices to melt, new cultures to embrace, and new pockets of humanity to inspire with a love that transcends our finest hours.
Wayne Hooper’s words in the hymn are apropos: “We have this hope that burns within our hearts, hope in the coming of the Lord. . . . We believe the time is here, when the nations far and near shall awake, and shout and sing Hallelujah! Christ is King!”
So we work and we wait. We preach, and we pray. We hug, we hold, we heal. We shout it from the mountaintop, and we whisper behind closed doors. We will continue to diversify, and we will continue to be united by this common passion that pulses through our veins. We are Seventh-day Adventists, and we will press on until we see His face.
Ross Calkins is pastor of the Bellflower Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southern California. This article was published November 18, 2010.