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Musings & Memories

Roll Call

Posted 6/17/23

A number of years ago, the church where I was serving as pastor was preparing for the annual Homecoming Service.

Every year at that special service the Recording Secretary would read the …

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Musings & Memories

Roll Call


A number of years ago, the church where I was serving as pastor was preparing for the annual Homecoming Service.

Every year at that special service the Recording Secretary would read the Official Roll of Church Members, and those in attendance would call out, “Here!” Or, “Present!”

Well that year, there was a couple who had been attending the church for a number of years, but had never officially joined the church.

The husband wanted to make sure that their names would be read when the Roll was called that year, so he and his wife came forward and joined the church several Sundays before Homecoming.

On Homecoming Morning that couple proudly called out, “We are present! We’re here!”

People like to hear their name called out at a Church Homecoming; it gives them a sense of belonging. They know they can say, “I am a member, this is my church.”

But even more important than a Church Roll Call, there is The One All-Important Roll Call that none of us need to miss out on, and that is when the Roll is called in Heaven.

The Apostle John wrote in Revelation 20:11-15: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it… And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire…. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Friends, I don’t want to see any of you miss out on that Roll Call. You are the only one who can make sure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Please say “Yes” to Jesus.

Back in the year 1892, James Black was the Sunday School Superintendent of the Methodist Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and he was the one responsible for the Sunday School Roll Call.

One Sunday morning as he read the Roll he was surprised that Bessie didn’t respond when her name was called.

Bessie had been in attendance every Sunday ever since Mr. Black had met her on the street outside the church and had invited her to Sunday School.

She had put her faith in Christ as her Savior, and was always excited to be in church. Bessie was one of the most enthusiastic students in the class.

Mr. Black was concerned about Bessie. He knew she came from a very poor neighborhood and that her alcoholic father was raising Bessie by himself.

He was unable to throw off the bad feeling that had come over him when Bessie failed to respond to Roll Call. So after church was over, Black went to her home to check on her.

Bessie’s father asked him to come in, telling him that Bessie was very sick. He soon realized that the situation was serious, so Black called for his own doctor to come and care for Bessie.

The doctor diagnosed her with a case of advanced pneumonia, and he made arrangements for Bessie to be hospitalized right away. Mr. Black and Bessie’s father were by her side at the hospital until the nurses encouraged them to go and let the girl rest.

As Mr. Black made his way home that evening he kept thinking about Bessie and how she always joyfully called out “Present” when the Sunday School Roll was called.

He thought about The Greater Roll Call coming someday before the Great White Throne of God, and the sadness for those whose names aren’t written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

When Black arrived at his home he sat down at his piano and without any effort he started to write a new song: “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more, and the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair; When the saved of Earth shall gather over on the other shore, And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”

The refrain and the rest of the verses of his song just flowed freely as he thought about that Great Roll Call, and Bessie and her father, and the rest of his Sunday School students. He knew that Jesus would be coming soon.

It wasn’t long and Mr. Black sang that song publicly for the first time, and it was at Bessie’s funeral.

He knew Bessie would enthusiastically call out “Present, I’m Here, Here I am,” when her name would be called from the Lamb’s Book of Life.

“When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there!”

I am praying that you will be there with me!