Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
October 31, 2010
What fun to worship with the Auburn Methodists
Last Sunday was a blessed day. Escorted by my son Steve and my grandson Josh, I enjoyed several hours worshiping with the Auburn Methodists. Those folks know how to worship the Lord! My dear friend Brother George Mathison, the senior pastor, was in Georgia preaching so he allowed me to fill in for him.
Our gracious hosts were Associate Pastor Charles Cummings and Professor Ed Williams, my journalism friend on the faculty at Auburn University. We quickly realized that they had a good, well-oiled plan for the morning. Charles and Ed were ready to roll.
The fun began at the Auburn Fire Station a little after 7 am. We sang a few songs, prayed together, and I offered a brief devotional. I thanked the firemen for being available to the community when they were needed. As they began to enjoy hot biscuits prepared by George’s wife, Monteigne, we hurried off to the church for the eight o’clock service. Later I learned that Ed had used his camera to make a video of my talk to the firemen and by mid-afternoon I had entered the “YouTube” world for the first time.
Steve and Josh toured the campus, had breakfast, admired the white-out at Toomer’s Corner, and returned in time to join us for the eleven o’clock worship.
Ed Williams had been tabbed to introduce me in all three worship services. Two were “traditional,” eight o’clock and eleven o’clock; the nine-thirty service was “contemporary.” Realizing that Ed would have to listen to me preach the same sermon three times within four hours, I had mercy on him. I suggested he call 911 and have paramedics on hand at noon, with oxygen, not for me but for himself. He declined, opting just to bring along some smelling salts to revive us both.
Ed’s introduction was mesmerizing. It was so good that the congregation did not want him to stop; nor did I for his flattery made me seem bigger than life. I kept praying that Billy Graham would suddenly appear and preach, knowing there was no way I could measure up to Ed’s eloquent buildup. As the morning progressed I realized that Ed was pumped. By the third time he delivered his stirring introduction, he had me laughing to cover my nervousness. But the next time I speak, whether in Kansas City or Orlando, I want Ed to introduce me. My host will have to pay Ed’s way to get me to come.
Though Brother George was away, he left a marvelous team in place for each worship service. There was no stumbling, no hesitation; everything was handled with precision. The music in each service was extraordinary; gifted musicians knew what they were doing and they did it beautifully.
I was impressed with the energy and enthusiasm of each congregation. I expected this of the contemporary crowd but it was equally present in the traditional services. The people sang joyfully and looked alive. I wondered if perhaps the people had been influenced a bit by the energy and excitement displayed by Cam Newton and the Tigers the day before. It seemed so and it was like icing on the cake.
Though preaching was my reason for being there, I had another more personal motive for going. Seven years ago, when I was near death in the East Alabama Medical Center, many of the Auburn Methodists had prayed for my recovery. I wanted to thank them for their prayers and I did. I am still very thankful for the prayers offered to the Father on my behalf. He does many wonderful things in answer to prayer.
Lunch after church was fabulous. Ed took us to the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center to enjoy the Ariccia buffet. The food was so good we stayed until two o’clock. You can hurt yourself eating there.
The most beautiful surprise of the morning was the privilege of seeing and embracing dozens of old friends – like David Housel, Jack Johnson, Bob Money, Rene and Mark, Scoop, Nick, Sarah, Bob, Tom and Marcida, Seth and Sally, and many others. Friends really are “like diamonds.”
October 24 was a very special day for me. I am in debt to every person who had a part in it. So Brother George, the next time you need to preach in Brunswick, Georgia, give me a call. The Auburn Methodists know how to make an old preacher feel special. You serve a mighty fine church. + + +