Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
Strathmore, Alberta, November 1974… “Pastor, can you come over please, I need some help.” Two months into my first placement as a mission development pastor in this small prairie town, I received my first invitation to make a pastoral call. We worshiped in the Anglican church, all 26 of us… on a full Sunday. Brenda, God bless her, went from single in San Francisco to married in Strathmore, Alberta. As the locals were wont to say, it was the kind of place where you could watch your dog run away for two days.
Though I do not exactly remember, I probably wore my clerical collar. Firmly ensconced in my grip was my Occasional Service Book (that little green book clergy carry, chock full of little liturgies for everything in the world except how to bury an Occasional Service Book). Like a good Boy Scout (I was a terrible one), I drove off for my first pastoral call wanting to be prepared. After some social niceties including coffee and cookies (this is farm country for goodness sake) I asked this long-time widowed, childless, and forever faithful Lutheran pilgrim how I could be of service. Somewhat embarrassed, she asked me to follow her… to the laundry room. “Pastor, this washer is not that old (Sears, that is, Sears Roebuck delivered by horse drawn wagon old) and it has just quit. What do you think I should do?”
Now, I am absolutely the most non-mechanical person you could know. Literally, the last person you should ask for mechanical advice. I recently took an hour and a half to change the head on my string trimmer (you would have been done in ten minutes). So proud of myself. Worked like a charm. Used it for an hour, put it away, and then noticed, lying on my work bench, the new unused part that had yet to be installed. Ugh.
Anyway, she was a darling. I stuttered and feigned a professional look at her dead washer. “Well, we Lutherans do not baptize the dead, but I could do a Commendation of The Dying Service.” I would describe her look as stoic; she was Finnish after all. “That’s it? That’s the best you can do?” I apologized, and in the interest of full disclosure, I had to admit that after two months I had not yet mastered the Gestetner (don’t ask). I would be useless trying to fix her washer. “Well,” she sighed, “You can say a prayer, can’t you?” I think I asked if the prayer was for her or the machine? I left without a cookie for the road, and wondering why we didn’t have a seminary class for this stuff.
Many of us, when we read scripture, look for the red letters. For direction, we look first to the words of Jesus. Jesus is the lens we look through to understand how we can best sort out life; how we can follow faithfully, knowing we have already been tucked away in God’s Kingdom by the love of Jesus. We view the whole of scripture and life through the red letters of Jesus. We expect to find the words of Jesus in the four Gospels, and of course the words of Jesus are found in John’s Revelation (Lutherans by-in-large, though, don’t go there very much). One of those rare outside of the Gospel places we find Jesus’ words is, 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Three times Paul had prayed for the Lord to remove the thorn in his side. We don’t know what that thorn was, but God’s answer was more than “Nope,” it was “Trust in my grace in your time of need. What’s more,” says the Lord, “trust in my ability to use your brokenness to further reveal the Kingdom of God to those who are looking for the Good News.” Strange red letters.
I am continually looking for the red letters. Always. Daily I am mindful of those things that are not going right in my life (let alone tens of thousands dying from pandemics, race riots, screams for economic justice, etc., etc.) and all the while I am praying, “Uh, Lord, I could use a little help over here, parts of my life are not going as I planned!” (Something about that damnable ongoing battle with the illusion of control.) And the words of Jesus ring out, “My grace is made perfect in your weakness.” Well, then I guess I will just have to find meaning in providing ample opportunity for God’s grace to be made known through my thorns. Still can’t fix a washer though.
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