Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

I have flunked one class in my educational career, so far. I am convinced that I would have flunked a few more, but teachers tended to be full of grace and probably did not want to see me the next semester. I flunked Art History when I was in college. The professor was fantastic, I found the class interesting; after all, I love history and was a standout finger painter my three years in kindergarten. I flunked Art History, an elective, filled with students who did not know beans about art. A monkey who showed up in class would pass. There were four tests given during the semester; each one was weighted equally and the lowest grade would be dropped. The idea was to expose the inner-city students and farm kids to culture and then move them on to their major course of study.

After the first three tests I had a solid B, outpacing nearly 2% of the class. On a Monday night in finals week, I had worked a four-hour shift at United Parcel Service loading packages into Chicago bound semi-trucks. Home at 11 p.m., some late-night nourishment, and in bed by midnight, Art History final at 9 a.m. the next morning. The phone rang at 4 a.m., it was my boss at United Parcel Service. Someone had called in sick and they needed me right away to help unload a semi-truck. I was at work by 4:15 a.m. I had just enough time to get to campus for my final. But then I thought, three tests, drop the lowest grade, get a B in the class. I went home and took a nap before studying for my basket weaving final the next day.

When the grades arrived in the mail (an ancient custom), I was shocked to see that I had failed my Art History class. Come to find out, you could drop the lowest score but you could not skip the final. The devil is always in the details. One of my dear friends at United Parcel Service, Carlos Cervantes, always used to say, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” The next semester, I passed Art History, graduated from college and moved on to Luther Seminary, where I passed Greek because my professor was a Christian.

Life is not easy for any of us. We all have our challenges, but life tends to go smoother if we pay attention to the details. Like I told the policeman, “if I had known that it was against the law to drive my car on the pedestrian pathway, I wouldn’t have.” My life could have turned out much differently than it did. What is my point? I have been doing this for six months, sometimes I don’t know the point until I get there.

Pay attention to details, read the fine print, take notice of street signs, wear your masks, and don’t talk on the phone and drive. But even more importantly in this pandemic season, pay attention to the ways of Jesus. Be kind and thoughtful to those that you live with and eat with, go out of your way to be a good neighbor, a good friend, a responsible citizen, a caring and patient presence in the midst of pandemic anxiety and uncertainty. Pay attention to Jesus, for he modeled a life of service, compassion, and mercy. He was the Master of new beginnings. Pay attention to the details of life, and give thanks for the grace-filled moments when we have been forgiven.

Every once in a while, we all need to take Art History over again. It reminds us that we are human and encourages us to pay attention to what really matters.

One day closer,
Pastor Jim