Unsung Saints 2020 Lent

Tuesday of Lent 5

Mark 9:42-50

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Marie, Beloved Wife and Gracious Lady

Marie grew up during the Great Depression in central Texas. Her father was a pharmacist and owned his own small-town drug store. I believe she was a cradle Episcopalian, but she became a Lutheran when she married Dick, a local German boy from Carmine, a predominately German community between Houston and Austin. After the war, Dick took a job as a state agriculture agent in Waco.

They raised one son, who did extremely well in business when he went to work for Bell Telephone. Even after the breakup of the larger company, their son continued to rise through the ranks of one of the so-called “Baby Bells” and became a top executive. Because of his demanding job, they rarely saw their son and even more rarely their granddaughter. It was an almost unspoken sadness in Marie’s life.

Marie was from that generation of women who never worked outside the home. Her role was to be a supportive wife to her husband in his career and a devoted mother to their son. Eventually, Dick retired and operated a small business for extra money and to earn enough quarters to qualify for Social Security and Medicare. Their home was immaculate inside and out. He had a green thumb. She had an eye for color and design. They made a great team. They were always dressed to the nines on Sundays.

In the old Lutheran Church in America congregations, the financial secretary kept track of all the pledges and prepared giving statements. Dick kept meticulous records and closed lips, but he famously said after we took a Love Offering, “There sure wasn’t much love for the Lord in that offering!” He shook his head.

The Over 50s group at St. Matthew had wonderful potluck meetings every month at which I was a regular guest and frequent teacher. Marie always had something good to share, and, when I was invited to lunch or supper at their home, she set a beautiful table and served one tremendous course after another.

Marie poured her heart into relationships with Lutheran girls at Baylor University. Her closest friend at church was Jean, the wife of emeritus accounting professor Rod. Jean and Rod sponsored the Lutheran student group, provided meals for them each Sunday evening, and connected them with families at St. Matthew. Two sisters became favorites, and their lives were intertwined with Marie’s for years.

After I had moved to Austin, Marie called to tell me that Dick had died. He had suffered with cancer for many years. She knew that the new pastor needed to conduct the service, but she asked if I could be there. It felt so strange to sit in those pews and not to be officiating, but it was my honor to be there.

A few weeks later I was driving through Waco on my way back from a meeting in Dallas. I stopped in to see Marie. We had a good visit and cried together. Dick and Marie had been so intertwined in life that their home felt so powerfully empty. I hated to say goodbye and cried for Marie’s loneliness on my drive home.

Thank you, Father, for Marie and all the faithful women, whose love for You, Your Church, and their husbands is such a great blessing to many. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put thirty-five pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to buy farm animals to help the global poor to make a sustainable living.

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.