In the Fall of 1988, I began a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program at Columbia Theological Seminary. I decided—for some unknown reason—I needed a new backpack to begin the journey. My shopping venture took me to a luggage store at the local mall, and I spent (what at the time seemed) far too much money on a leather satchel. I was tired of the typical backpack I had toted through high school and college. I liked the way this satchel felt, smelled and looked hanging off my shoulder. It had a ‘Hemingway’ feel to it. Thirty-three years later, I’m still carrying that satchel. It’s been a constant ministry companion. I had purchased my ‘preaching Bible’ three years earlier at the beginning of my Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree program. The Bible has been rebound twice. It fits nicely into the rear compartment of the satchel. These two items have traveled the world with me. They may be the only two items my children fight over when I’m gone. Well…okay…maybe not….
This Sunday, August 22, is Promotion Sunday. We will take time in our morning worship hour to bless and celebrate our educational journeys—particularly those of our children and youth. One element of this service will be the ‘blessing of the backpacks.’ Our children have been encouraged to bring their backpacks to church. Over the next year, these carriers will be filled with books and snacks and homework and clothing and toys and pencils and many other items that define their life at this moment. Blessing these backpacks will symbolize our ongoing prayers for them during this school year. Our children may not carry these backpacks and this year’s contents for thirty-three years, but at least for this year they will be assured of our prayers.
In addition to the blessing of the backpacks, this Sunday’s service will also include the proclaiming voice of Caleb Avery. Caleb is our new AYMC Director. He and I will be preaching an interview-style sermon together. Consistent with Promotion Sunday, we will be exploring 1 Thessalonians 4 and discussing ‘The Words of An Instructor.’ It is going to be a meaningful day at First Baptist Greenville. I hope to see you there.

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