First Tuesday of Lent
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
Howard, the Painter
My paternal grandfather, who suffered from the great depression prior to his suicide at the age of 36 in 1924, was a house painter. My father was twelve when his Daddy died. It was a dreadful, haunting betrayal that loomed large in our own father’s life. He never had the slightest interest in picking up a paintbrush. Of his four children, I am the only one who fell in love with house painting.
My mother had given me a rudimentary introduction to painting. She was always painting hand-me-down bikes, tricycles, and wagons for her kids. She would reclaim aluminum lawn chairs from the roadside and restore them. When Dad read about an old Gulbransen player piano for sale and had his freight haulers at the railroad station to move it to our house, Mom spent hours stripping the old mahogany stain from it and had the felts restored to the keys. So… I began to learn to paint at home, but when I took a summer and fall semester off from seminary, an old high school friend Mike, who was now a painting contractor, taught me proper skills.
When I came home for the summer after vicarage, I had the blessing of learning more about painting from Howard, the top painter in our town. He was an ethical man, a kind and godly man, the father and uncle of old public school classmates. One day when he was showing me how he mixed and matched colors, he said: “There are a lot of painters and builders who don’t do it right. Now, I could follow suit and do shoddy work, but soon the word would get around about me. I like living in this town, and I want to keep living in this town, and so I do the best work I can, because that is what people pay me for. My reputation matters to me. I don’t want my wife and kids to ever have someone talking bad about me to them.”
Howard did not have a job. Howard had a vocation. He was a house painter, and he took great pride in his work. He worked smart. He worked clean, meaning he was never sloppy. It was an honor to get to know him and an honor to learn more about painting from him. It served me well. I was able to support my last two years in St. Louis by working for one of my professors, who bought, rehabbed, and sold old apartment buildings to fund his daughters’ college educations. I worked summers painting with seminary classmates.
I have saved a lot of money painting interiors and exteriors of the homes I have purchased. I derive a great satisfaction from seeing the work finished. No, God didn’t call me to be a house painter, but I have the highest respect for those who exercise their building vocations well.
Thank you, Father, for Howard and all those, whom you are building into the dwelling place of your Son. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put seven pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
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.