Unsung Saints 2020 Lent

Wednesday of Lent 1

Mark 1:29–45

And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Chip, Ladies’ Man and Heck of a Trumpet Player

Because Friday night football in Texas is the national religion, marching band practice began in August at the same time as two-a-day football workouts. I was a short, skinny 14-year-old cornet player, too slow, too scrawny, and too soft, then, to play football. In a high school with about 700 baby boomers, our marching band routinely put 100 on the field. Mr. Neugent, our band director, seemed so old at the time. Not long ago, I finally realized he was only 29. Marching band practice in the Texas heat might as well have been boot camp. Once school started, practice was from 7:30 – 9 in the mornings and from 3:30 – 6 in the afternoons. We became a Sweepstakes Band, which was a big deal, because of Tommy Neugent.

Whatever instrument you played, the first chair of your section was the boss. Chip looked to me to be about 20 at the time. Of course, all the seniors looked like grown-ups. If the brat pack movie, “Sixteen Candles,” had been made back then, I wouldn’t have been the Anthony Michael Hall character. I would have been one of the dweebs. That class of 1969 was a legendary group in our small town. They were the first to make band “cool.” There was rock drummer, Chuck, on bass drum, who composed the march-in rhythm he entitled “Soul.” I can still hear it in my head, and my blood races. The snares would lead, and the big bass drum would answer. Syncopated rhythms, back and forth, we in new purple & white uniforms.

Chip had a brand new metallic green 1969 Chevy Chevelle SS with white stripes. He had a thick head of beautiful blond hair and blue eyes, and most of the girls swooned when they saw him. That was several years before Carly Simon sang, “You’re So Vain,” so when Karen Carpenter sang, “Close to You,” more than a few girls thought she probably was singing about Chip. He may have, too.

So, Chip was like a junior god to the freshmen in the trumpet section. He was cool. Stan, the second chair, was more like a drill sergeant. You wanted Chip to tell you that you were catching on. Stan told you what a disaster you were. I caught a break with some of the older girls, because several of them knew my hippie older brother, and so I kind of achieved mascot status with them. Not exactly what I wanted to be.

Our town was dry in those days, meaning no alcohol was officially sold, except for that out of trunks of cars, carried from across the river in Oklahoma or from the liquor stores in Denison, thirty miles to the west. There were school dances and community center dances, and kids drank a lot. The much older kids were already smoking pot and popping pills, but we only heard about it. Texas drug laws were very fierce.

One night after Chip had graduated and was working, he turned a corner onto a poorly lighted street and ran over an old drunk stumbling down the road. It was a defining moment for him. I don’t think he ever got over it. Yes, he continued to be a ladies’ man for a while, and, then, eventually married one of the cutest girls from the class of 1974. I lost touch with him and only learned a couple of years ago that he had died from alcoholism. Even though I hadn’t seen him in over 40 years, I felt this deep sadness at the news.

A parishioner in Austin used to talk about people peaking at the age of 18 in small towns. He knew about that, because he had moved to the big city and had made a fortune through years of hard work and chasing dreams. A fire burned in his belly. He had never shone in the high school pantheon of gods.

I remember Chip as one who was always kind and encouraging to one of the little dweebs. God bless him.

Thank you, Father, for Chip and all the men who go home in pain far too soon. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put eight 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.