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Unsung Saints Advent Devotions 2019

First Thursday of Advent

Matthew 21:33-46

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Gary, Cowboy

Bonham could be a snobby, little town. It was founded as Bois d’Arc, named for a very hardwood tree that produces knobby green fruit we called horse apples. After the fateful battle of the Alamo in 1836, it was renamed Bonham for James Butler Bonham, the South Carolinian messenger who rode out for help and came back to die with the rest of the heroes of the Texas Revolution. Located 12 miles south of the Red River in a valley, Bonham was briefly the largest town in that part of the Republic. Folks from a little place called Dallas would travel there to get their mail. It was quite the town for hellraising until Carrie Nation and the Women’s Temperance League came to town and turned Bonham dry. Five years ago, when my sisters’ class of 1965 were preparing to celebrate their 50th high school reunion, they successfully voted in the sale of beer and wine.

Sam Rayburn remains to this day the longest-serving Speaker of the House in U.S. history and the ramrod behind such legislation as rural electrification and the farm-to-market road system. His funeral was the biggest thing to ever hit Bonham, and I was there as a 2nd grader. Because of Mr. Sam’s influence and Bonham’s place in early Texas history, who your family was and how long you had been there mattered. If you were from south of the tracks or government housing, you were low in the pecking order. If you were move-ins, like our family, everything depended on what your Daddy did. If you were a farm boy or a cowboy, you were hicks, unless your Daddy had a lot of land and money. We didn’t have a lot of land or money, but Daddy got very involved locally and Mama became a servant leader, too, and I eventually fit in more than my siblings had when we first moved there during their middle school years. I went all the way through the local school system.

In 1965, Bonham schools began to integrate at the order of President Johnson. Some of the rural schools were absorbed into our system. It made for a larger high school of about 700 students. Some of the older social stratification shifted. There were athletes and cheerleaders, musicians and the brainiest, Future Farmers, Future Homemakers, kids that worked and had hot cars or choppers, the party crowd, and various other subgroups. Outside of classes, most people stayed in their groups. People tended to find their place and stick there. There wasn’t a lot of cross socialization.

Gary was a funny guy. He was comfortable in his own skin, wearing his blue FFA jacket, his cowboy hat, and boots. We said “hi” in the hallways, but we never hung out together. And, then, we moved into a new high school our senior year, and, for the first time, we had a closed campus. You couldn’t scatter at lunch. People talked a bit more, mostly saying how much we hated not being able to go out to eat at lunch. Then, in the second semester of our senior year, our class of 162 suddenly realized we were about to scatter to the winds. A lot of folks got involved in the senior play, “Li’l Abner” (a musical based on the comic strip), and, after practice, a bunch of the guys would drive across the river to Oklahoma to get a beer in the honky-tonks. One night, Gary and I shot a game of pool and took turns feeding quarters into the jukebox. We started singing along and had a grand time. Gary said, “Look at us. We’re all from such different backgrounds, but we’re hanging out together and having fun.” It was great.

We graduated, and everyone scattered. A few months later, Gary flipped his car driving fast around an S-curve. He was killed instantly. I went by the funeral home to pay my respects. He was laid out in a casket. It was so unbelievable. His older brother and parents were a mess.

Thank you, Father, for Gary and all the kids who leave too soon and leave this world with tears. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, NC

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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