Unsung Saints Advent Devotions 2019

First Tuesday of Advent

Matthew 21:12-22

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Clint, Neighbor, and Playmate

In 1959, we moved to the only house my parents ever owned. We had relocated from Texarkana the previous year to a rent house in Bonham when Dad was named agent-yardmaster for the Texas and Pacific Railroad. Upon seeing the rent house, Mama burst into tears. It was dreadful. Mother had been forced to move from a larger town with a church she dearly loved to an inexplicably, snobby little town (the home of Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn) that had no Lutheran church. Our mostly Baptist neighbors would ask: “Lutheran? Is that like Catholic?” Today, I would answer, “Yes,” but not then in a town that still had poll tax booths on the courthouse lawn, segregated schools, and signs that said: “Whites only.”

Our street was known as “Kid and Dog Street,” because all those new baby boom homes had a minimum of two children, but usually three or four, and, at least, one dog. Mama began networking right away. She learned that Rose was another Yankee nurse who had married a soldier. They became friends. All the kids from high school to kindergarten played outdoor games on summer nights. The older kids would humor us with “Kick the Can” or “Red Rover” for a while, but, then, they always wanted to play “Hide and Seek.” It took a long time for us little guys to figure out why.

As we got older, Sammy, Tommy, and Clint hung out together a lot. We were each in a different grade, but the age difference was slight. We spent hours in the native elm trees in our side yard at the end of the street. There we built a multi-level treehouse from odd pieces of lumber pilfered from scrap piles at new construction sites. Sometimes, we played “Twelve O’clock High,” the WWII movie and later TV series. Sometimes, we played astronauts. Sometimes, we played Tarzan. Our first campouts were in that side yard. We smoked grapevine until our throats were sore.

By the junior high years, our folks would let us camp out in “the woods” as we called the undeveloped land east of our neighborhood. We found cow ponds where we could catch perch and catfish with cane poles. Clint’s dad, Shem, was a great fisherman. From him, Clint had learned to clean fish quickly, and so we were glad to let him show us how it was done. Our moms would send us out with some Crisco, some cornmeal, a few red potatoes, and some Safeway soft drinks. We had scout mess kits for cooking. We took bedrolls for sleeping. We might have even pilfered a few cigarettes from our father’s packs. We ate well, talked about the mystery of girls, and slept very little. Our parents didn’t worry about us once we showed them where we would be. It was a very different time. We grew up to go to our first solo trips to the state fair and our first rock concert.

Clint’s parents had health issues when he was in high school. He was playing football and was talented at it. After I went away to college, Mama would cook supper for Clint and let him stay in my room. A girl my age from near Boston relocated to our town of 7300 and caught Clint’s eye. They married early and had a child. Clint joined the Air Force, and they had another child. He became an Air Traffic Controller and was sent off to a remote base away from his family. I was away at seminary when I heard Clint had died, leaving behind a young widow and two small children.

Tommy and Clint loved to aggravate me, because, I was, in those days, easily riled. They were good coaches for pastoral ministry.

Thank you, Father, for Clint and all those childhood friends who help to shape our lives. 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.