John 12:9-19

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Elizabeth, Pastor’s Kid and Quiet Receptionist

In 1995, St. Martin’s was an aging, conservative German congregation from the old ALC (Columbus OH) tradition. Its former pastor, Jim Bennett, had been elected bishop of the Southwestern Texas Synod in May 1994. The facilities took up an entire downtown city block, and, other than a new copper barrel roof over the nave and a sprinkler system and asbestos abatement throughout, most of the maintenance had been deferred since construction in 1959. A huge building project was needed. It would occupy our life together for the next nine years, including three years of renovation and expansion from 1998-2000.

For many years, Saint Martin’s had provided a parochial school that served PK3 through 5th grade. By 1995, few of the parish’s children were enrolled, and, eventually, the downtown market pointed towards a preschool that served families with children 18 months through 1st grade.

Unpaid receptionists, mostly older women, provided the first contact with phone callers and weekday visitors. Most of these women were retired from business, held college degrees, were very well spoken, and knew how to make a gracious first impression. We were blessed to have each one of these servants.

Elizabeth was one of the quietest of the regulars. As she sat at the receptionist desk waiting for the phone to ring or ready to greet a visitor, Elizabeth did whatever she was assigned to do. She was always dressed nicely with every hair in place. She took pride in whatever she did. Yes, Elizabeth treated the work as if it were a paid position, but, really, she approached each task as serving Christ and His people.

On vicarage, Eileen, the pastor’s secretary, taught me to appreciate those who serve in the church office. At Parkland Hospital, we were likewise blessed with a great support staff person. During the six years, I was a mission pastor in Lancaster, we had no paid office staff and had to rely on those who gave their time typing bulletins. So, I was amazed by the level of love and professionalism the unpaid receptionists brought with them each day they came to serve. First thing every morning, I would greet these great ladies and thank them for serving. Their response was to a person: “Pastor, you don’t have to thank me.”

Over time, I sat down with each one and learned about where they had come from and what they had done previously. When I learned Elizabeth was a pastor’s kid, I started teasing her about their wild reputation. She was a massive introvert, as quiet a person as I have ever met, but she would get a big grin and play along as if she had been a wild child, too. I would tell her I always checked the newspaper to be sure I didn’t need to bail her out of jail so she could be on-time to serve. That always made her laugh.

When I accepted my present pastoral call in 2004, Saint Martin’s had ten full-time and ten part-time church employees and twenty full-time and twenty part-time school employees. With the exception of my Executive Assistant Maxine, none of the employees worked any harder than Elizabeth and more than a few were a lot less gracious. I remain grateful for having known this unsung saint, and I am thankful for those who consistently and lovingly provide hours of unpaid service to Christ and His people right here.

Thank you, dear Father, for your servant Elizabeth and all the pastor’s kids, who serve Christ’s Church faithfully in their own way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put forty-one 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, North Carolina

The Daily Readings are from English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers