Feast of the Epiphany

Matthew 12:14-21

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

God’s Chosen Servant
Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Glenn Arthur, Most Valuable Parishioner

I had moved out of the parsonage and into my first home in 1986 just before the economy tanked in Texas. Suddenly there were 150 properties in the same price range within ten minutes of my suburban southwestern Dallas neighborhood. I had turned down a call to a mission congregation in Broward County, Florida, the previous year, a call I really had wanted to take. But, no, I was upside down on that mortgage. When I took the call to Waco, I had no idea I would have to commute 93 miles each way for forty-seven months. I owed more than the home was worth. The interest rate was 9 and 3/4%, and I couldn’t rent it out without subsidizing the note payment. So, I drove. The speed limit was 55. Oy veh!

Several parishioners offered me overnight space on a regular basis. Typically, I would drive down on Monday morning and work a 13-hour day, stay overnight with a parishioner family, get up and work an 8-hour day, and, then, drive home. On Wednesday and Thursday, it was the same schedule. On Friday, I tried to stay home and write sermons, but there were regular pastoral duties like pre-surgery visits, funerals, and wedding rehearsals, that often sent me to Waco and back on the same day. Saturday was stay at home day, and, often, Saturday night, we would drive to Waco and stay in a very nice hotel managed by a parishioner and at a very reduced rate. Or, it was wake up and get on the road by 5:30 on Sunday morning to be there for 8 a.m. worship. Then, two services and Sunday School, lunch at a restaurant or occasionally as guests of parishioners, perhaps some hopeful house hunting, and, then, back to Dallas. Get up on Monday and do it all over again. I yelled more than a few childish prayers on the drive between my home in Cedar Hill and my office in Waco. I’m sure I looked like a crazy man at times.

Glenn Arthur was one of a kind. He had played shortstop for the University of Texas baseball team in the early 1950s after a couple of years in the Army. At Texas, he met and married Jo. They were the love of each other’s life together and a hoot to be around. They argued often very different points of view playfully and with gentle humor, and they would do it publicly to the great amusement of folks around them. When I would stay overnight at their home, we would have a late sandwich together and a couple of glasses of wine. They would bicker as they did, and they would say, “This is as bad as it ever gets when we argue.” If only they could have taught classes in that to folks in Washington, Raleigh, and the media!

Glenn was an entrepreneur. It’s part of Waco’s culture. He would say, “I have three businesses, and if I ever make any real money from any of them, I will sell and take it easy.” In reality, Glenn was a great boss to all of his employees. If any were sick or hurt, he took them to the doctor at his expense. Every Christmas he threw a big catered lunch, gave everyone a gift certificate to the local grocery, gave away turkeys, and invited his pastor to give the prayer. Of course, the pastor got the same gift as the rest.

After almost four years on the road, the older women in the congregation decided it was time for the congregation to help their pastor sell that house. They voted to lose money with us, so that we could sell, pay off the mortgage, and move into our own home in Waco. Glenn was in the thick of that, and one of his sons and he rented a big truck at his expense, helped us move, bought food for everyone, and joked the whole day long. That was Glenn. And there are so many stories I could tell that describe why Glenn wins the award for Most Valuable Parishioner ever! If I tried to buy his lunch, he would say, “When I run out of money, Pastor, you can buy.” Big smile. And I still see Jo and Glenn in western garb dancing at every wedding. It’s been over a year since Glenn died. Jo can’t wait to see him. And neither can I.

Dear Father, thank you for Glenn Arthur and all those most valuable parishioners who are a blessing beyond imagining and who teach their pastors the joy of ministry in daily life. 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.