And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Bill, Elderly Confessor
Bill was well in his 80s when his wife died. He had lived in Corpus Christi for his entire adult work life, but Bill was a Central Texas German. Having no children, he wanted to be close to his sisters Annie and Bertha. So, one Sunday morning at St. Matthew in Waco TX, Bill showed up, of course, in a suit and tie with polished shoes. His sister, Annie, the most outgoing of the three shy siblings proudly introduced her brother and said he would be joining the church.
For the next several years, I would look out from the pulpit and see Annie and her husband Tony, Bill, and their sister Bertha, who had a long history of mental illness, all sitting together in worship. I imagined them as teenagers back in one of the little country churches surrounding Brenham (the home of Blue Bell, the Lutheran ice cream, and more famously the hometown of my bride). It reminded me of sitting with my Mom and siblings back at St. James church in Allen’s Chapel TX (near the metropolis of Honey Grove).
Like me, Bill and his sisters had grown up in low church German Lutheranism with a heavy dose of pietism. In our separate but similar childhoods, one didn’t receive Holy Communion too often, lest one take the Lord Jesus’ true Body and most precious Blood for granted. So, these siblings were fascinated by my chanting the liturgy and wearing a chasuble. I suspect I may have seemed a bit exotic, perhaps like going to musical theater, but they always had a smile for the pastor, a kind word of encouragement for a young man still in his 30s, and a “thank you for your message” or “good sermon, pastor.”
When Holy Trinity Sunday rolled around that year, I led the congregation, as I always have since my ordination, in confessing the Athanasian Creed, one of the three creeds in the front of the (Lutheran) Book of Concord from 1580. The placement of the creeds at the beginning was a purposeful statement that we confess the catholic faith. There is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all. After worship, Bill waited to be last at the door. I could tell he had something important to say. And he did. “Pastor, I am well into my 80s, and that’s the first time I have ever said the Athanasian Creed in worship. I didn’t even know it was in our worship book. Thank you. That answers so many of the questions I have had about the Holy Trinity since I was a young boy.” I asked, “So, what impression did it make on you.” He answered quickly, “I really liked it. I hope we will use it again.”
Pastors are often hesitant to violate the one hour “rule” when it comes to worship. The Athanasian Creed takes more time. By its repetitive cadences, you can hear seminarians chanting it centuries ago as they learned how to confess the faith once delivered to the saints. I knew Bill and his sisters were dear, devout German Lutherans. I never expected that Bill would not only stop to talk about that marvelously complex creed, but that he would be such a passionate elder confessor. I learned that day not to underestimate God’s saints. Loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the one true God, many will delight in confessing Him.
Thank you, dear Father, for Bill and all the faithful elders who confess the faith joyfully. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put twelve 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