Pastor Mark’s eNote – A Place in the Parade
I was in a parade once. It was 15 years ago, Veterans’ Day, 2002. Children lined the street leading from the Ellijay Elementary School to the town square. They had been released from class for the afternoon and were in a festive mood. Others from the community joined them, waving American flags and cheering as the parade went by. It was a community tradition, the parade leading to the square where the high school band played, the chorus sang, and speakers spoke. As the parade passed, there was a wonderful sense of community, celebration and patriotism.
However, one Chrysler Sebring convertible and its passenger seemed to puzzle everyone. “Who is that guy?” they all seemed to ask. “And why is he in our parade?”
“Reverend Mark Westmoreland” said the double-poster-board sign on the side of the car. Yes, I was the strange guy that no one seemed to know, and I have to say I felt a little, well, strange. I had never ridden in a parade before. I tried to muster a decent “parade wave,” but I think I just looked awkward. I tried the demure beauty-queen-flicked-wrist version, the bold politician-both-hands-over-head-vote-for-me wave, and the royal back-of-hand-toward-crowd wave, but none felt comfortable. So, I just gave them the “Hey-how-y’all-doin’” wave and enjoyed the ride as best I could.
Once at the square, I took my place on the dais in front of the courthouse with the other speakers for the day—a retired Master Sergeant with 31 years of experience, who spoke on behalf of the veterans, and the commanding general of the Georgia National Guard. I was the “community speaker,” even though I no longer lived in the community. Go figure.
So, why was I there? Well, it had nothing to do with my status as a United Methodist preacher or any evaluation of my public speaking skill. It had everything to do with my father and mother. My father had died that year and was remembered as one of those veterans who, after serving their country, came home to serve their community. My mother was the one who always drove others to their doctor’s appointments and visited folks in the nursing homes that others forgot to visit. My father was being remembered that day and my mother honored, and I was the one waving from the Chrysler and sitting on the stage with the general.
And so it goes.
I don’t think there’s ever been anyone anyplace in ANY parade who didn’t have to thank someone else for the ride. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who was truly “self-made.” Every fortune is an inheritance; every good accomplishment takes its place in a parade that stretches ahead to the horizon.
As we gather for All Saints Sunday, that’s a good thing to remember. The parade didn’t start with us. And by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, it won’t end with us, either.