Building the Kingdom

May 5, 2023 | WEEKLY WORD

Last weekend, when our congregation celebrated John Robinson’s 100th birthday, there was a big group of people out in Los Angeles celebrating the 90th birthday of Willie Nelson. I have never been a huge country music fan but I was born in Nashville, Tennessee. I have also seen Willie Nelson in concert, and it was magical. Willie and his band (including his sister, Bobbie) were playing at Princeton University in the spring of 2001 – two blocks from where I lived at Princeton Theological Seminary. We had to go. 

There are some folks that just have a particular gift that they know how to share in a particular way that connects with other people, and Willie is one of those folks. I had seen Willie in pictures and on television for my whole life – a man with a beard and a beat-up guitar – but to see him walk onstage back in 2001 and start to sing in his signature style with a twinkle in his eye, I realized that I was in the presence of a living legend – an American treasure. This past weekend (22 years after I saw him on that stage in Princeton), he came out at age 90, played a set of music at the Hollywood Bowl, and knocked it out of the park. In all his years, Willie has just continued to keep going with his trusty guitar, Trigger, in his hands. 

I don’t know if I’ll be capable of knocking anything out of any park when I am 90 years old. I certainly hope I will be – and that you will, too. If we can take a page from the “Book of Willie” (as well as the “Book of John Robinson,” who has Willie beat by ten years), maybe the best thing is just to keep going – to keep moving forward. 

I heard a sermon last week about Psalm 23, and the preacher said that, perhaps, the most important word in the entire Psalm is “walk” – as in, “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” The Reverend Susan Sparks writes, 

“. . . any time we find ourselves in the shadow of the valley of death or the shadow of a huge obstacle or the shadow of change and transition, the best and only thing we can do is keep walking. Just keep walking. . . Walking from pain into purpose. Walking from frustration into faith. Walking from longing and lament into love.” 

If we do keep walking, we will likely encounter any number of setbacks, any number of hardships, and any number of joys. We might end up feeling battered about like Willie’s old guitar – looking a little worse for wear. But, as we walk, if we share the gifts God has given us, we might just be a blessing to others – that God is using us for good. May we walk, trusting that God will be a blessing to others through us.

Keep going. Keep walking. And share your gifts along the way. 

See you in church!

Grace and Peace,


Prepare for Worship

This Week: “Collecting Stones (Building the Kingdom)”