by Doug Murray
The word had gotten out: a beloved Sunday School teacher had turned 93 and was cutting back his teaching schedule to two Sundays a month. How much longer he could keep doing even that was uncertain. So on Sundays, people from near and far started coming early to make sure they got a seat. On June 10, some came as early as 1:00 A.M. The sanctuary was filled. Those who didn’t show up until 5:00 A.M. or later had to sit in the fellowship hall, which also was filled.
The members of the small church were gracious and well-organized hosts. As we waited, they kept us informed and sometimes even entertained. They told us stories about the teacher’s life: what he and his wife have been doing in their retirement. They passed around the wooden offering plates he had made – testimonies to his love of his church and his love of woodworking. Our hosts told us, “When he comes in, don’t stand, don’t applaud. He’s not here for that. He’s here to teach from the Scriptures.”
The church’s energetic 24-year-old pastor, Brandon Patterson, led us in prayer. Then Jimmy Carter came in and asked, “Where are y’all from?” Kansas! Texas! North Carolina! Chad! Pakistan! Nepal! And there was one man from Switzerland named Flavio Meroni. Nearly 40 years ago, Meroni was a Swiss diplomat, standing on the tarmac of Teheran Airport, receiving 52 American hostages to return to the U.S. To make sure that he got all 52 back, he had each one sign a borrowed sheet of hotel stationery. On this Sunday, Flavio Meroni had come to Plains, Georgia, to Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church, to give that sheet of signatures to President Carter.
But that presentation would come later. Now it was time for Sunday School. Most Sunday School classes begin with prayer concerns. This morning, Jimmy Carter’s prayer concern was for the meeting between Kim Jong Un and President Trump. He was praying that it would go well.
The lesson from the Smyth & Helwys quarterly was on the minor prophets. To put the minor prophets in context, Carter gave a concise review of the history of Israel, without referring to a single note. Then he told of Ahijah promising Jeroboam 10/12 of the kingdom of Solomon because Solomon had strayed into idol worship (1 Kings). He also told of Nathan confronting David for having an affair with Bathsheba and then arranging the death of her husband in combat. He read David’s confession in Psalm 51.
And then the former leader of the free world described how the love of God offers everyone a new start. Think of it, he said, the love of God means that each one of us can have a fresh start and begin living life the way we wish we could! Thus the Nobel Peace Prize laureate gave a heartfelt evangelistic appeal to follow the way of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
The Sunday School teacher this Sunday was pretty good. Awesome, actually.
Visit http://www.mbcplains.org/ to see President Carter’s teaching schedule.
Visit https://www.cartercenter.org/ to learn more about the work of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, including efforts that have saved tens of millions of people from debilitating Guinea worm disease.