Twelfth Day of Christmass

John 15:1-16

I Am the True Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Marguerite, Prayer Warrior

Marguerite was a member of St. Matthew in Waco. Thirty years ago, a woman in her 80s had grown up during World War I, come of age in the Great Depression, and come into her prime during World War II. Folks from that generation remembered a very different world than the Waco that was rapidly changing during the late 1980s. Of course, there were no DIY or HGTV channels then. The present-day stars of that famous show set in Waco were little children.

In the early 1950s, a tornado destroyed much of downtown, killing many. As a result of that tragedy, the town built south and westward. St. Matthew was founded in those years as a ULCA mission and began worshiping in an old WWI barracks. Along the way, the church had bricked and expanded the barracks and turned it into a fellowship hall and classrooms. A new nave was built. We added space in 1992.

When I began serving St. Matthew in the summer of 1988, I was 34 and had been ordained for 7 years. Many of the oldest neighborhoods close to downtown were neglected. Baylor University is to the east of what became Interstate 35. Downtown lies to the west of Baylor on the opposite side of I-35, and many of the most charming older neighborhoods had changed with multi-racial demographics. It was culturally still about 1970 there at that time in terms of race relations, and racial epithets were not rarely heard.

One of the real joys of serving a smaller congregation is that pastors can get around to every home and to every shut-in regularly. Marguerite lived in a changing neighborhood of charming old Craftsman cottages. She had been there for decades, and her newer neighbors watched out for Marguerite lest some of the young druggies in the area would try to harm or steal from her.

Marguerite was a little old prayer warrior, who was, in fact, a spiritual giant. One of the women from her prayer group told me Marguerite was going to have surgery. There was some concern among friends that she might not make it because of her frailty and declining health. So, the pastor went to her house to bring the Sacrament of the Altar and to pray with Marguerite before she had to go under the knife.

We had a wonderful visit. She told me stories about her life before she was widowed. There were old photos to look at and various mementos that were much more valuable to her than any price tag. She shared things about her own spiritual growth, and, then, she began to ask questions about my life.

Marguerite said, “I’ll bet no one ever prays for you when you visit them.” I answered, “No.” She said, “Lean over here and let me place my hands on your head.” And she began to pray that God would bless my ministry and my family and me. And I began to cry. It was one of the holiest moments I’ve ever experienced, not only in my ministry, but, in my life. I went to lift up Marguerite. She blessed me more!

Dear Father, thank you for Marguerite and all those elderly prayer warriors who lift up young pastors in prayer and offer them a blessing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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.