The Baptism of our Lord, January 9

Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.


Jack, Faithful Warrior

There’s an empty place at the end of the front pew to the left of the chancel. On November 13, we gave thanks for the life of Jack Donald. At late morning on November 16, we laid Jack’s worn-out body to rest at Oleander Gardens. A proud U.S. Army veteran, Jack was carried to his grave by the Patriot Guard. He received military honors with the always-moving playing of Taps and the folding and presentation of the American flag that had been draped over his casket. By happy circumstance, Jack received his own flyover by two military jets just as military honors ended.

Jack loved Jesus. As a little boy, he picked out a church he wanted to attend and fought his way into the congregation, many of whom wondered whose little boy that was and why he was sitting in their pew. Jack was glad when they said, “Let us go unto the House of the Lord,” and he never wanted to miss worship. His daughter Donna and his grandson Thomas did everything they could to get Daddy Jack where he wanted to be. Jack may have fought dementia, but he wanted to be in worship, wanted to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and wanted anointing and healing prayer every time he was there.

Pastor Frank Senn, a liturgical historian and former Senior of the Society of the Holy Trinity, was our guest teacher for a couple of prayer retreats at St. Matthew’s some years ago. The longtime pastor of an old Swedish Lutheran congregation in suburban Chicago, Pastor Senn told us the story of a blizzard that struck one winter weekend. He made his way to worship expecting not many to show, but, of course, those who had assembled were the long-time members. Pastor Senn told us that one older Swede wryly remarked: “Pastor, it’s a day when only the elderly and infirm could make it to worship.”

As we conclude another round of Unsung Saints, I lift up Jack Donald as a model worshiper. Like Wayne, who despite having lost both legs in the Navy still made it to worship every Sunday, Jack was only absent when hospitalized or when his family could not get him to worship. At 93 and with increasing loss of cognitive ability, Jack still loved Jesus and wanted to be with Him in worship. Marie and he had been members at St. Matthew’s for many years and, then, left for a more conservative church. One Sunday, they showed up and introduced themselves to the new pastor. They liked what they heard, and they found how much they had missed receiving the true Body and most precious Blood of Jesus weekly. After that, they were back almost every week.

When Covid hit, we were disturbed to hear that Jack and Marie were in the hospital. We prayed and prayed for them, as did many others, and, by the grace of God, they recovered. As quickly as they were able, Jack and Marie were among the first worshipers back after eight weeks of mostly online worship with a maximum of ten allowed at each service. Meanwhile, much less fragile and less vulnerable members were too terrified to come to the services of God’s house. It was remarkably similar to the story Pr. Senn told. The older unsung saints were not afraid to worship. They knew what was essential and what not.

We were back in full swing as early as the end of May 2020. No outbreak has come from worshiping at St. Matthew’s. We kept on singing hymns, and the choir kept singing anthems even with a bit of social distancing. To this date, the pastors continue to wear masks and gloves to serve the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. It is not too dangerous to gather for the services of God’s house. In fact, Jack Donald at 93 led by example, declaring that there was far greater danger in not receiving Jesus in the Host and Cup and not assembling with the unsung saints, who, like Jack, are the backbone of this and every congregation.

So, there is a gaping hole at the end of the first pew to the left of the chancel (from the pastor’s view), but there is a much larger hole in our hearts for that dear, sweet man who showed us how to love Jesus.

Dear Father, on this day of our Lord’s Baptism, we thank you our dear brother Jack, whose passion for worship was always a great witness to his church family. In Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

Please bring a check to St. Matthew’s (Unsung Saints) for $9.46, $47.30, or $94.60 for neighbors in need.

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.