John 12:20-26

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Ellie, Librarian and Exemplary Wife

When I began seminary in August 1976, I needed a student job to help to make ends meet. I was living alone in South St. Louis When the financial aid advisor saw I had some previous experience in college, I was assigned to Ellie, who was in charge of Acquisitions for the seminary library.

We were building a new library mostly from scratch, the core of which was the 10,000-volume personal library of the late professor Arthur Carl Piepkorn. Good used lighting and shelving had been donated by the McCormick Seminary Library in Chicago. All of the cataloguing was contained in the traditional wooden boxes filled with heavy paper cards. The librarians could communicate with the Library of Congress using an amazing new phone modem into which the phone receiver was placed by hand.

Ellie made the work interesting, even though each donated volume needed to be carefully entered into the catalogue system. There were boxes and boxes of microfiche sheets from the Library of Congress and a microfiche reader. Newer volumes were easy to find, but finding the Library of Congress number for the older books could be very tedious. Ellie said, “You need to treat this work like solving a mystery.” When I would find a book that had never been previously catalogued, Ellie would beam as if I were a detective.

My favorite moment at the end of each workday was when Ellie’s Old Testament professor husband, Von, would appear to take her home. Their eyes would meet, delight would appear on each face, and it was magical how this couple of fifty-plus years could still exude a private, smoldering passion in that moment. I remember thinking, “I want the kind of love that Ellie and Von have.”

Von was tall and had a long white beard and hair combed back from his forehead that reached to the top of his collar. Seminarians would say, “He looks like Moses.” He was, at 75, in better shape than most of his students, because Ellie kept him on a healthy diet and actively exercising. In warmer months, he rode his bicycle in from their home in Clayton to midtown St. Louis. I can hear him now beginning his class on the Psalms by praying from memory the King James Version of his selected psalm of the day.

I wonder how many student librarians Ellie trained and inspired throughout her decades of service. She taught me that even the most tedious research could be turned into a mystery to solve, and that there was so much more to a library than simply checking books in and out. I wanted to know more, and I wanted to spend many more hours in the library studying, too. Ellie was a jewel.

Lucille, Ellie, Mary, Ann, and Elizabeth built and organized a new library mostly from donations and with the very modest assistance of a few part-time student helpers. Theirs was no small task, and, because of them, a seminary of about 400 students in 1976-77 was able to continue forming a generation of pastors.

Thank you, Father, for Ellie and all the librarians who teach students to dig deeper into the wonderful world of books. Thank you for exemplary wives like Ellie, who bless and delight the men to whom God has given them in marriage. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put forty-two 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