Sabbath Day Thoughts — “The Glorious Inheritance Eph. 1:11-23
On All Saints Sunday, we remember our ancestors in the faith.
In July 1890 when Jennie Conklin signed her name to the church register as a founding member, she was newly widowed. Earlier that year, Jennie’s husband John had moved the family from Rochester to Saranac Lake in pursuit of a cold air cure for his tuberculosis, but John died soon afterward. A Scottish immigrant with three children under the age of ten, Jennie was hardworking and resourceful. She transformed the family home at the corner of Main and Church Streets into one of the village’s earliest and most successful cure cottages. Jennie accommodated nine tuberculosis patients at a time, charging them $16 to $18 a week for room and board. That may not sound like much money, but in today’s dollars, Jennie collected about $4,700 a week, all while tending to a three-year-old, six-year-old, and a nine-year-old. Jennie brought that same ethic of ingenuity and industry to her forty-five years of church membership. When she died in 1935, she was remembered as an “active worker” for the church, known for her “first-class doughnuts.”
When William and Rosa Roberts signed on as charter members of the church, they were Saranac Lake pioneers. Not long after their marriage in 1874, the two had come to the north shore of Ampersand Bay where William served as the clerk for the Saranac Lake House, one of the most famous Adirondack hotels of the 19th century. By the time the Lake House burned down in 1888, William Roberts had moved on to serve as the village’s first postmaster. Then, as the tuberculosis boom brought more and more people to town, Roberts saw his opportunity and took it, launching a real estate and insurance agency. William Roberts helped to build this sanctuary. He was one of the church’s first two elders. In fact, he served as our clerk of session for thirty-eight years, until his retirement in 1928, taking minutes in a nearly indecipherable hand. You can see him in the photo at the back of the church walking ahead of President Coolidge and Rev. Newell as they emerge from worship. He was notoriously intolerant of long-winded preachers. One Sunday, he felt the service ran too long, so he collected folding chairs from the center aisle when people rose to sing the last hymn. Unaware that their chairs were gone, worshippers tumbled to the ground when they tried to take their seats for the postlude.
When William Roberts died in 1934, the church grieved, and the elders of session served as his pallbearers. Among those who carried the burden was Dr. Hugh McClennan Kinghorn. Kinghorn was the young medical superintendent of Montreal General Hospital in 1896 when he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis. He came to Saranac Lake for treatment from EL Trudeau and stayed on after receiving a clean bill of health, serving first as an assistant to Dr. Trudeau and then opening his own medical practice, just one block up Church Street. There was great excitement at the session table in 1897 when Rev. Tatlock announced that Dr. Kinghorn was joining the church. He was promptly appointed to the newly minted board of deacons and continued to be a mainstay of the church for sixty years, until his death in 1957. Dr. Kinghorn was particularly interested in the spiritual nurture of young people. In the mid-1920’s he recommended that confirmation students be given Bibles upon joining the church, a practice we continue today. He also suggested that the minister counsel the youth of the church on the importance of abstinence from the consumption of alcohol.
Jennie Conklin, William Roberts, Hugh Kinghorn. What a glorious inheritance they have left for us here at the Presbyterian Church!
In our reading from the letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul reminded the church that they were heirs to a glorious inheritance. Ephesus, on the Aegean coast of what is now Turkey, was the leading city of the Roman Province of Asia. The prosperous port was home to a prominent Jewish community and a well-established synagogue. There Paul had taught for three months during his third missionary journey, until he wore out the patience of the temple’s traditionalists and was asked to leave. Ephesus was also a major center for pagan worship. Indeed, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Tempe of Artemis, drew worshippers from across the Roman Empire. There pilgrims sacrificed to a many-breasted idol that had fallen from the sky. Paul, Apollos, Prisca, and Aquila had improbably planted a church in Ephesus, a Christian community that had knit Jews and Gentiles into the body of Christ.
Being a Christian wasn’t easy for those first church members in Ephesus. They faced opposition from the synagogue, which saw them as heretics who had forsaken the Torah to affiliate with unclean Gentiles. They also faced opposition from their pagan neighbors. In one of the most sensational stories of the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that Demetrius the silversmith started a riot in Ephesus in protest of Christians, whose winning ways detracted from the worship of Artemis and put a dent in his sale of silver idols. Members of the Ephesian church were verbally abused and beaten during the riot, and Paul was forced to flee for his life.
It sounds like a tough setting for ministry, yet Paul wrote that his Ephesian friends had every reason to celebrate. Through Jesus Christ, God had claimed them for God’s purpose and adopted them into the people of Israel. They had a share in the glory and honor and power of Jesus, who had been raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly realm. Earthly powers of synagogue and temple might make for challenging ministry, but the faithful of Ephesus were heirs to a glorious inheritance among the saints. Because they dared to hope in Jesus, the Ephesians could live for the praise of his glory. Their mourning turned to dancing, their lament to jubilation. How could they keep from singing?
On All Saints Sunday, we consider our glorious inheritance among the saints – the saints of Ephesus and the saints of Saranac Lake, like Jennie Conklin, William Roberts, and Hugh Kinghorn. We, too, have been claimed by Christ and sealed with the Spirit for God’s purpose. We also acknowledge the responsibility that comes with that wondrous heritage. As heirs and bearers of a legacy, we live in ways that are worthy of our calling. We honor the past and look to God’s future, confident that we are beloved children and inheritors of an imperishable legacy.
This church abounds with people who honor our glorious inheritance with the sharing of their time, talent, and treasure. Ted Gaylord, Anita Estling, and Skip Outcalt followed in the footsteps of William Roberts as Clerks of Session. They may not have served in that capacity for thirty-eight years straight, but their handwriting is a whole lot better. And with the advent of computers and acid-free papers, the minutes they take today will be perfectly legible for the saints of tomorrow. Others among us have served as elders, doing the prophetic work of making budgets, planning programs, discerning where the Spirit may be leading, and sharing the yoke of leadership. Do we have some elders here today?
Others among us have, like Dr. Kinghorn, been called to the Board of Deacons. We care for members and friends in times of sickness or struggle. We are the first to welcome our babies and to bless our dead. We have been known to prepare a delicious Spaghetti Dinner or offer tasty treats in big bake sales. We raise money and awareness to support vulnerable neighbors through the Deacons’ Fund. Do we have any deacons here today?
Many, like Jennie Conklin, honor our glorious inheritance as “active workers” behind the scenes. We prepare the sanctuary for Sunday mornings as Sanctus volunteers. We mow the lawn and shovel snow. We roll up our sleeves for the annual spring cleaning. We ply the paintbrush, hammer nails, hang drywall, run electrical wiring, or implement new technology. We make “first-class donuts,” chicken noodle soup, and Mardi gras king cake. Do we have any “active workers” out there?
On this All Saints Day, we remember that we are heirs to a glorious inheritance and bearers of a local legacy. Through Christ we are welcomed into the company of all the saints, and by choice we have followed in the footsteps of local saints. Let us live in ways that are worthy of our calling, honoring the past and looking to God’s future, saints one and all.
Evelyn Outcalt and Judy Kratts. A History of the First Presbyterian Church of Saranac Lake. Church archives.
Historic Saranac Lake. “Hugh M. Kinghorn.” Accessed online at https://localwiki.org/hsl/Hugh_M._Kinghorn
–. “Dr. Hugh Kinghorn Dies; 61 Years in Saranac Lake.” Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Nov. 7, 1957.
–. “Jane Conklin.” Accessed online at https://localwiki.org/hsl/Jane_Conklin
–. “MRS. CONKLIN DIES AFTER LONG ILLNESS.” Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 15, 1935.
–. “William F. Roberts.” Accessed online at https://localwiki.org/hsl/William_F._Roberts
–. : W.F. ROBERTS, SARANAC LAKE PIONEER, DEAD.” Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Dec. 13, 1934.
Sally Brown. “Commentary on Eph. 1:11-23” in Preaching This Week, Nov. 7, 2010. https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/all-saints-day-2/commentary-on-ephesians-111-23-5
Emerson Powery. “Commentary on Eph. 1:11-23” in Preaching This Week, Nov. 3, 2019. https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/all-saints-day-2/commentary-on-ephesians-111-23-4
Mark Tranvik. “Commentary on Eph. 1:11-23” in Preaching This Week, Nov. 3, 2013. https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/all-saints-day-2/commentary-on-ephesians-111-23-3
11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. 15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
First Presbyterian Church of Saranac Lake, 1901