Kirkin’-of-the-Tartans is here again! The 27th Kirkin! Hard to believe that I’ve been here for 20 of them! Many of you, more than that! We’ve once again gathered to remember and acknowledge the history, legacy and heritage that we share as Presbyterian Christians.
Way back in 1837... 185 years ago... settlers from the Pendleton district of South Carolina made their way here... to the lands in West Georgia and East Alabama opened to new homesteads, for farming and development along the ever expanding frontier.
The history tells us that “being destitute of the stated systematic means of Grace, and being desirous to enjoy more fully those means, and to have [their] families brought up under the influence of the Gospel and its ordinances” - the founders of this church gathered to unite themselves together as the “Presbyterian Church of West Point” - even though at that time, the church was completely located in Alabama... and was organized through the Presbytery of East Alabama.
Of course, those founding members of this congregation were building on a heritage that was already established. The “mother of church” of West Point is still located in the “Pendleton District” at Clemson, South Carolina, today. The Hopewell-Keowoee Presbyterian Church (most often called the Old Stone Church), is where several of our charter members faithfully served before moving to West Point, was itself, established in 1789... with many of it’s members taking part in the American Revolution.
But our heritage goes back even further... to the 16th Century... when pious leaders like John Knox in Scotland, broke from the Roman Catholic Church over several theological issues... and along with others, like Martin Luther, in Germany, and John Calvin in Geneva, laid the foundation of the Protestant Reformation. And in August of 1560... the Scots Confession was penned, and has been handed down for nearly 4 and quarter centuries... as a standard of faith and practice.
The first members of this church had a vision. They dreamed of a place of worship. A place where people could learn and grow in faith. That is our heritage.
Today we celebrate a milestone in that heritage. 185 years is a long time. Think of all the baptisms... weddings... funerals... all the sermons and fellowships... all the songs of praise that have echoed through this place.
A huge part of our heritage is the faithful commitment to share the Gospel. To be the hands and feet of Christ. To continue the vision that was cast long ago... of bringing up our families in the influence of the Gospel and it’s ordinances.
And that means of grace; the foundation of all of it all... is Jesus. As we sang about just moments ago, “How Firm a Foundation... is laid for your faith, in God’s excellent Word!” God has literally given us all we need for faith, and practice, and belief, in the Word of God. And as John’s Gospel testifies: the Word of God became flesh, and has made his home, his dwelling, among us! That Word, is Jesus! And what we believe about Jesus matters, right?
I mean, we’re talking about the same Jesus that Peter confessed to be “the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
Jesus had reached a milestone in his own ministry. Jesus and his disciples had accomplished a lot. They had healed the sick, and fed the hungry, and proclaimed the good news of the coming of God's Kingdom for years. And Jesus was about to head toward Jerusalem to leave his final legacy for the church.
So, at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" The answers ran the gambit from John the Baptist to one of the prophets of old. Then Jesus directed to question at the disciples, making it personal, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter said, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." Jesus replied, “Yes... and you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”
There is a lot of speculation as to what that rock is. But, as Presbyterians, we hold to the understanding that Jesus was referring to himself... and Peter’s confession. That Christ would build his church on the confession that He is the Christ the son of the living God, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it!
There are challenges ahead. We live in a age of rebellion... a time of discontentment. Today it can be difficult to share the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
But, in faith, believing that we serve the Christ, the Son of the Living God, whom the very gates of Hell cannot overcome... we share... we keep telling the story... we keep offering this world Christ... and the good news of his love, grace, and mercy. Our heritage is one of hope. One of a brighter tomorrow. It’s a legacy of redemption and restoration and peace that passes all understanding.
And it all starts with Jesus: the very same Jesus who said to Peter, “upon this Rock I will build MY church!” The very same Jesus who worked though Calvin & Knox in acknowledging our faith is by scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. The very same Jesus the 13-charter members of this congregation sought to serve 185-years ago. The very same Jesus you and I are called to follow, today. We’re all woven into the fabric of God’s story, like colors and pattens woven into a tartan...
The fact is: No matter what the future holds, we know this: we never walk alone. For the one who loved us first, and loves us most, goes before us. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the only way to the Father. May we never forget our true foundation. We have no other way... our Rock... is Christ alone. And as you and I continue to walk in the long shadow cast by those who came before us... may we hold to our confession.
That Rock will stand forever... and will empower us to share the Truth of Christ for another 185 years (good Lord willing), and beyond.