Like Richard, Peggy died on her birthday. She was exactly 101. I expected she was holding out for that milestone, and, now, I have lost count as to how far past 200 deaths at St. Matthew’s I have marked in my time as pastor. Yes, today, there will be a huge hole in the second pew behind the baptismal font. For Peggy will not be sitting in her pew at St. Matthew’s on Easter for the first time in 46 years. She and Al, her late husband of 74 years, came to Wilmington and St. Matthew’s just before Christmas 1976. Nell and Mrs. Vera welcomed her right away, and, before long, Peggy was organizing the prayer group along with another dearly departed sister Dorothy. So many great ladies and gentlemen are now with the Lord!
Many have agreed with retired journalist Tom Brokaw’s description of my parents’ peers, “The Greatest Generation.” Born before and coming of age during the Great Depression, they married young, many went off to war and some stayed home, like Peg, to assist the war effort in factories, agriculture, and shipyards. Their children have known more luxury and education than most of them, and, yet, we have not been even moderately successful in passing along the faith, the citizenship, the work ethic, and the fidelity of our parents. When we boomers compare ourselves with the accomplishments of our parents, we must admit we fall short. Look at what boomers and those we influenced have done with church, country, and communities. Graham Nash sang, “We can change the world.” But not really for the better. Not really!
Parents came home from the war to marry, raise families, build churches, tear down racial barriers (yes, it was the Greatest Generation and not the boomers that did that), and make their world a better place. Our Lord says, “By their fruits, you shall know them.” By the boomers’ and subsequent generations’ fruits, we can see dystopia more than utopia. After all, utopia means “no place.” When will we ever learn?
Peggy was a year younger than my Mom. They met one time in fall 2004 and talked about Philadelphia, where both came of age in different United Lutheran congregations. Mom and Dad met in the Army during the war. Al ended up in a German prisoner-of-war camp, while Peg was left wondering if she was a young widow and would never bear his child. Al came home. They gave birth to Bev, and now she and Alan are firmly rooted in Wilmington and facing the first Easter in their whole lives when Peg is not physically here.
This Easter, we Christians grieve our loved ones but not without hope. We know that our Redeemer lives, and that those who have died marked with His cross and sealed with the Holy Spirit are alive with the Lord. When we sing our “Alleluias,” it is perfectly understandable that we do so with both tears of joy and also tears of grief as our Lord Jesus also shared with and for us at Lazarus’ tomb. He knows intimately what we feel, because He, the Living Word of God, became truly human in the Virgin Mary’s womb so that He might win the victory over sin, death, and Satan. We don’t have to deny the pain of separation that is the result of Adam’s sin and ours. But the unholy trio cannot win the day. The Kingdom’s ours forever.
We preach Christ crucified, because that is where the Passover Lamb was killed for us and our salvation. His precious Blood was painted over the doorposts of our lives when we were joined to His saving death and glorious resurrection in Holy Baptism. We keep the feast this day for the Lamb who was slain has begun His reign. This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia!
Covid is past. All the excuses are laid bare. Boomers, Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z, it’s our time to rise up and to serve to the glory of God. We are Easter people. As with the first generation of Christians, we have a unique salvation story to share. We have vocations through which we are to serve our neighbors. What’s past is not unrepeatable in a new context and a new day. The future is bright, because the Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! Be like Peg, Harry, Vera, Nell, Richard, Brenda, Bob, and Jim. Rise up! Get busy!
Dear Father, thank you for the ever-growing cloud of witnesses, with whom we will rejoice to be reunited forever in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you set aside pennies each day during Lent, please write a check to your congregation for $11.28 and designate it for Unsung Saints 2023. If you set aside nickels, write a check for $56.40. If you set aside dimes, write a check for $112.80.
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.