Saturday after Epiphany, January 8

Colossians 1:15-23

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.


Bob and Bob’s Way

At his funeral on July 10, his children said, “There was a right way, a wrong way, and the Bob way.” Bob didn’t always get his way, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying. He was stubborn. That’s not a bad thing.

Bob and his sweet wife Mary Lou found each other in adulthood. He was divorced and had custody of three kids, and she was widowed and had four. Together, they became the Brady Bunch and did a fine job of raising those seven kids, who still love each other even after so many years.

Bob had been raised an Episcopalian in the Washington DC area. He liked good liturgy, and, even though Bob and Mary Lou worshiped on Saturday nights after their retirement to Wilmington and to St. Matthew’s, Bob didn’t want to be shortchanged.

It has been my pattern in the four churches I have served as solo or Senior Pastor never to make major changes in the first year of service. It is important that the pastor get to know the people and to be the only change in the congregation’s normal functioning. A wise older pastor encouraged me early on to begin serving a parish in this way, and it has been the right call. It is important to communicate that the new pastor respects local traditions and wants to go slowly when it comes to making changes.

Bob noticed right away that I cared how the liturgy was celebrated. He asked, “Why do we omit the psalm on Saturday night?” I told him I didn’t know but would find out. As I suspected, my immediate predecessor had wanted to streamline the Saturday service. So, we added the psalm back in, which made Bob happy. When he learned after a while that I wanted the parish to acquire processional torches to place on either side of the ambo (the word place/pulpit), Bob helped to make that happen quickly.

For years, until Mary Lou’s dementia became too pronounced, Bob and she folded and assembled the worship bulletins on Thursday mornings forty-eight weeks a year. The other four they spent in Florida. As Mary Lou began to have difficult completing such simple tasks, Bob would get so frustrated, because Mary Lou had brilliantly managed their large pest control business in Washington DC for decades. Bob would tell her she was doing things wrong, and Mary Lou would laugh it off. She never lost her sweet spirit and good humor even after she went into a memory unit. Bob was afraid, but it always came off as anger.

St. Matthew’s has been the most unique of the four congregations I have served. It has a long history of welcoming and assimilating new members quickly. One never has to fight one’s way into leadership at St. Matthew’s, but that doesn’t mean one should disrespect its long history and traditions. Bob and Mary Lou understood this and fit well into the fellowship activities of older adults. They were part of the group from Saturday night that ate a Crazy’s Pizza after worship. They were part of the senior fellowship group that had been known for years as the Jolly Elders (now OWLS). They were always there at the monthly birthday group that met at Bluewater. Bob liked things to stay the same. That was Bob’s way.

Through these groups, newer and longtime members got to know each other and cared for each other through ups and downs. They knew each other’s quirks and foibles, and the new pastor would hear, “He will talk your ear off if you sit by him, Pastor.” Or, “Just be aware that anything you say to her will have spread to the whole congregation by Sunday.” But they loved each other and were there for each other. Bob might have appeared to be gruff on the outside, but you could count on him when the chips were down. When my wife was pregnant and we had a blow out, Bob saw us in the summer heat, took my wife home, and came back so that I could sit in air conditioning until the tow truck took our car to the tire store.

The green awning over the front entrance is there, because Bob wanted to make sure that the women would stay dry when they were dropped off when it was raining. I was always grateful for Bob’s way.

Father, thank you for Bob, Mary Lou, and all the unsung saints who are a blessing in so many ways to neighbors who don’t even know or remember them. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

Place forty-two pennies, nickels, or dimes into a bowl or box out of love 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.