Dear Fellow Children of God,
In the summer of 1979 my wife, Kathy, and I had just begun living in the big 2 story brick house that St. Paul Lutheran Church in St. Louis owned for their pastors. I had graduated from seminary in May and started serving at St. Paul in June. The side door of the parsonage might have been about 12 feet from the side door of the church.
One Saturday night in August we had gone to a movie, come home, and gone to bed. About 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning I heard a noise and rolled over and turned on the light beside the bed. As I turned on the light the sound of someone running down the stairs woke us both up. Those stairs led right to our bedroom, but the intruder had turned around and run. You see, our kitten had tried to get friendly with the burglar, so he tripped on the kitten. Needless say we got little sleep the rest of that night, and I was a little tired as Sunday morning arrived and it was time for worship.
Kathy and I called the police and they arrived about the same time that Otis did. Otis was a member of our congregation who worked with the poor in our neighborhood for Lutheran Social Services. He lived about 3 blocks from us, and had a police scanner. At 3:30 a.m. Otis left his home to come to our house and make sure his new pastor and family were safe. We were fine, just a little shaken.
Another time, Otis called me and told me, “Ozzie is coming.” Ozzie was a local man who went from church to church seeking help. Ozzie had already visited Otis’ place and received help. But, about 10 minutes later Ozzie knocked on our door. Ozzie asked me for help with his wife, whom he said had pneumonia. The only problem is that about a month earlier Ozzie had told me his wife had died. I caught the inconsistency in Ozzie’s request. But, Otis’ alert had helped me be ready.
Last April I was in St. Louis for Stephen Ministry training. Otis came to the hotel where training was held and told us about his work. He was still collecting help for the homeless in North St. Louis. This 78 year old man was gathering donations of clothing, and food, and money, and arranging places they could sleep. I had known Otis for over 35 years and that whole time Otis lived among the poor, trying to help them with gifts of love, as well as sharing the comfort of God’s Word.
Otis did not have to live in the inner city. And, because of his eccentricities Otis had many detractors. But, Otis is one of those unforgettable characters I have personally encountered. Otis believed his Lord died for him, and he wanted to share Jesus’ love with those who led difficult lives.
This Sunday in many churches, including St. John, we will hear Jesus tell His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) In my mind and heart Otis denied himself for over 35 years to follow Jesus by helping the poor.
When Jesus called His disciples to this radical discipleship, it was not to earn God’s love. It may be surprising when selfish humans willingly deny themselves. It is even more astounding that the Lord of the universe would hand Himself over to corrupt rulers. Jesus let these corrupt leaders mistreat and kill Him. Amazingly, that is exactly the self-denial and sacrifice Jesus gave to pay for our selfishness. Mark 8 also tells us, “Jesus . . . then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31-32)
Television commercials today echo the thought pattern that has existed in the heart of people since the beginning of time. The world around us tells us to live for ourselves. So, Jesus confronted selfishness in His day, and He confronts it today. Jesus has lived and died for us, and He calls us to follow Him. Otis was not perfect, but, in my observation, Otis learned Jesus’ forgiving, sacrificial, love for him and Otis followed His Lord.
How about you? Is the sacrificial love of Jesus changing your heart so that you are denying yourself and following Him?
A Child of God, Seeking to follow my Lord,
P.S. Clay Jenson and I went fishing on Monday. We caught a lot of fish. Here are some of them. https://plus.google.com/photos/114993745799525883148/albums/6120627084617513121?banner=pwa Clay kept the 4 biggest fish, but we didn’t take those pictures.
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am always adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message. . .