Pastor’s Ponderings / Between Bench and Pulpit
“A Gospel that doesn’t deal with the issues of the day is not the gospel at all.”—Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Garrison Keillor, famous storyteller, author, and host of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” starts his weekly musings about the wonderful, fictitious town Lake Wobegone: “It’s been quite a week in my hometown.”
It’s been a week for me in my home-town. On a recent Monday morning, as I do every morning, I stopped for my unsweet tea at McDonalds on the “Dual.” I usually go through the drive-through, but on this particular Monday morning, I parked and went inside. There were not a lot of people inside the restaurant, and it didn’t appear that anyone was waiting, so I went to the counter. Behind me, a woman with two small children began yelling and using some colorful language, and as I turned she “flipped me off.” With the events of the week ahead of me, some personal anxiety over an upcoming appointment, and a few other things, I kind of had an out-of-body experience, my mouth engaged before my brain did, and I simply said, “Why did you do that?” The woman began crying, her children were crying, and she was able to mutter, “I don’t know,” and then she explained the circumstances of her recent weekend. Her husband walked out on her Friday night, the children were tired and cranky, she didn’t have much food in the house, and she was not sure what to do. She and the children were fatigued, sad, and just generally disoriented. I bought them breakfast, and we talked a bit. I hope you don’t think horrible thoughts about this woman. She was broken, and she apologized.
As I write this, I am doing some “clearing out” and even a little purging of “stuff” in our apartment. It’s time to reflect, reorganize, and regain some space. I came across a large glass vase with shells in it. I had a flashback, and some “flashbulb moments” from times spent long ago on the Gulf of Mexico. The sound of the surf and the lonesome call of the gulls speak to my soul. When walking along the Florida beaches along the Gulf, it is still possible to find complete sea shells of all sizes and shapes. Millions, perhaps billions of shells line the beaches. I have collected shells from each trip. The complete shells are beautiful, but my biggest fascination is with the smaller pieces of shell. This collection started some years ago, and I keep all the shells in the same jar.
What engages me the most is when I get home, I clean the shells, and then can admire all the different shapes and sizes, both of the full shells but especially the pieces. The complete shells are wonderful, but I treasure all of the, even the broken ones. I believe I know why. Sometimes it seems that the people I encounter are like the broken pieces of shells I have found. There are some people who are complete, or nearly complete, but for the most part I find many who have been buffeted by life’s storms, and they are fractured or broken. What makes my heart joyful is when the light goes on and they are given a new brightness or insight through the impact of Christ. I identify more with the broken shells, for I see in them symbols of my own life. How often I have failed to be or do what I could; how often life’s storms have pushed me off course.
Once the sand and sediment is off the little pieces of shell and they are placed in the same container with the complete shells, they are every bit as beautiful and valuable to me. They glisten and glow with the reflection of the other pieces and are a spectacular sight. Sometimes when we become broken and fractured, our pieces do better in combination with other peoples’ pieces. Separate we are not as strong, but together, once God washes away the sand and soil, we glisten and shine with the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
We are going through several of Jesus’ parables in our Sunday readings in August. I love hearing stories. My favorite stories are when people write their own parables and don’t even realize it. God created each of us and loves us in our “uniqueness.” He particularly loves us when we realize that there is great strength in united community. I’m going to challenge you to keep notes, and let’s see if we can have some “Parables from the Pews.” It doesn’t have to be lengthy. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just coming to life through sincerity and love. See me if you need some guidance or have questions. Let’s see if we can have one or two for the next newsletter. Have you been blessed? Well, then share about it!
Soli Deo Gloria!