Unsung Saints Devotions fro Lent 2021

Monday of Holy Week

Philippians 3:1-14

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Vickie, Who Got Her Miracle

You see the faithful unsung saints of God week after week in worship, and even pastors don’t know a lot of their stories until a crisis pushes us together. That’s the way it was for the first four years that I saw Vickie and Butch at Saturday night services. They were always genuinely kind and given to easy smiles. I knew their names, and that they had grown children. Beyond that, it was mostly gentle teasing and small talk at that door.

I had not seen them for a few weeks and began to wonder what was going on. I found out that Vickie was homebound with a failing heart and that they would appreciate a home visit with Holy Communion. We met in a large living room in their comfortable two-story near the oldest country club in town. That’s the day Vickie told me her story. She was from one of the oldest German families in town and had been raised in St. Paul’s. Along the way when their girls were young, they moved to St. Matthew’s where there was a large Sunday School and youth group.

Vickie told me that when her girls were five, three, and nine months, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, and suddenly Butch was facing the very real possibility that he would be a widowed father with three little girls. Vickie asked God for a miracle. She wanted to see all three girls grown. So, she underwent radiation at Duke Medical Center for months while watching over her baby in-between treatments. Meanwhile, Butch went to work at a bank and came home at night to their older two little girls. Duke told Vickie that the radiation would damage her heart, and that she would probably need heart surgery within fifteen years (if she lived). Vickie got almost thirty years before her heart began to give out. She knew she was on borrowed time, but she couldn’t be angry or bitter about it. God had given her the miracle she asked for.

Vickie told Butch she had two goals in life: 1) She wanted her daughters to grow up to be friends even in adulthood; and 2) She wanted her girls to be independent and able to take care of themselves. Vickie met both of her goals, and she was ready to go… though Butch and the girls wanted her to stay much longer. There were grandchildren who needed a loving grandma and at least one more wedding that needed a bride’s mama.

We had taken a pre-Lent trip to Texas with our nineteen-month-old toddler. Little did we know, it would be the last time we saw Laura’s Dad in this world. It had been a good trip with a quick visit to see my Mom and my sister Donna and a pleasant afternoon showing our little one the new zoo in Waco, Texas. On the way back to Wilmington, we had checked into a hotel near Birmingham AL. Butch called to say that Vickie had suffered a massive heart attack in her sleep and was comatose at New Hanover ICU. I told him I would be there that evening as soon as I got into town.

Vickie was on life support, and her vitals showed she wouldn’t be able to recover. We had prayers together and commended Vickie into God’s hands. She died shortly thereafter. I thought again of that afternoon at Vickie’s home when she told me she had already had her miracle, and she was ready to go in peace.

The day of her burial I stupidly left my cell phone on and in my coat pocket. It rang in mid-service. I was mortified. One of the girls said, “Mama?” They all laughed, and my embarrassment was lessened by their graciousness. But… I never take my phone out of the car at the cemetery now.

Thank you, dear Father, for Vickie and all the unsung saints who are given the time they ask for… and more. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put forty-one pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

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.