First Wednesday of Advent
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
Mike, Boy Scout and Ball Player
Mike and I were in Boy Scouts together for about four years. We also played Little League baseball on a team called the Yankees. His Dad was the coach. Mike was a good infielder. He was fearless. On the other hand, I was a scrawny kid, at best, an inept right fielder, but my on-base percentage was good because I knew how to draw a walk. Duck your head, make yourself smaller, and hope not to get one in the ear. My occasional hits were bloop singles just over the shortstop’s head. If I got into the game, it was always around the seventh inning especially when we had a big lead. I had a passion for the game that made me a better fan than player.
Mike’s Dad had come to town to run the local AM radio station. He became buddies with my Dad through the Chamber of Commerce, and I’m sure that was the only reason I was picked for his baseball team. God love him. John always let me have at least one at-bat every game and hoped no one would hit to right. In four years of baseball, I never caught one single fly ball. It helps to keep your eyes open. I learned that as a fan. In the occasional adult softball game, I learned to catch fly balls and became a better hitter.
Mike and I went on a Scout campout once a month during the school year. We went Friday afternoons and came back on Saturdays, so that everyone could be at church on Sundays. In the summers, we went for a week to Camp Dierks in the Kiamichi Mountains of eastern Oklahoma. Lady, our family dog who was there the first fifteen years of my life, could go with us on local campouts but not to summer camp.
Mike and I worked on merit badges together. We enjoyed waking up other scouts with rousing choruses of “You Can’t Get Them Up in the Morning” sung to the tune of Reveille. There was a lot of good-natured ribbing and the usual pranks like pouring warm water in the hands of sleeping scouts to see if you could make them pee their bedroll, Early on, we were duped by a Snipe Hunt, and, later, we pulled it on the newbies.
As we got older, we began to run with very different crowds. Mike hung out with the football players at first, and, then, Mike and some of those guys quit sports and got into partying. Even in a small town, kids grow apart. They find their niche. We would nod at each other in a crowd, as if to say, “Yeah, we grew up together. We used to hang out. But that was then.”
Not long after we graduated from high school, Mike stepped off a curb in downtown Dallas. He was hit by a delivery truck and killed. When I heard the news, I thought about all the native gifts Mike had, including a salesman’s personality, but he was dead at 18. It hurt my heart to think on it.
Thank you, Father, for Mike and all the kids with whom we grow up. Draw them into Your fatherly embrace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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.