Newbies

A very, very good Lutheran friend with whom I chat daily, and who was filled with consolation and compassion I’ve seen in but a few precious individuals – chatting with me for hours and for days and days after Sweet Mama Lou passed, sent me this hilarious jewel.  One, I say hilarious because it caused me to blow beer,  I hate that kind of waste, but it was worth it.  Two – it was downright hilarious, and made more so, because I was there, too . . . twice!  The tale?

Okay.  I especially need the break after those last two posts, and the one to come, although that one, not so much angst.  But my stories also put me in a homiletical mood, and some come close to fitting the full bill at times.So, off we go.I was teaching my twice yearly Pastor Information Class in Champaign for some newbies thinking joining, perhaps. The guy I am speaking of – a rabid brand new, freshly minted calvinist, was part of the class.  His sweetie – his girlfriend/fiance was raised LCMS, and wanted to come back after like a 10 year absence.  I said okay, but I wanted her to take my class and be  confirmed (which she had not been).

So she brought her newly minted boyfriend/fiance.  He was exactly like the faux article above, except he never bit me.  Hilarity ensued . . . for 16 weeks.

He was one tough nut to crack.  He knew his Scripture (newbie calvinists always do!).  He knew his stuff, although I often finished his quotes for him.  He got frustrated one night and asked me how I could do that?  I told him – “Ten years ago, I was right where you are – brand new to calvinism and full of the spirit and willing to convert the world!”

He stared at me – finally quiet for once, and he asked me – “What happened.  How did become a Lutheran Pastor wearing the odd shirt?”

I said:  “Easy – I attended a Lutheran church with new my wife, and was all over the Pastor in his Pastor’s Class.  Except, like I do with you, he knew calvinism better than I did, and I was so impressed with him I shut up, became a Lutheran, went to Seminary, and here I am.”

“So, it might be wise to kinda listen, ’cause I’ve already been there, done what you did, and its the wrong path in the end, Dude.  If you listen in class better, you’ll understand why.”

His better half was giggling as he sat there with his mouth hanging open.  I then offered: “I’ll make a deal with you.  Since I have a two-hour class here, you can hand write 5 questions for me, and quote all of your best sources.  I promise either to answer them in the flow of the class that night, or you can stay afterward.  And tonight, I’ll give you three free ones after class.  Fair enough?”

<diVHe kinda nodded, still shocked.  After I had closing prayer, I told the class they were free to go, our friend here has a few questions for me.  No one budged.  They wanted to hear it all.  So they stayed, and not being a stupid man, I got in an extra half hour or so.  And, he was confirmed, took the Blessed Eucharist he had ridiculed 16 weeks earlier, became a weekly regular and eventually I married them.  They sat in the second pew.

Because no one sits in the front pew of a Lutheran Church.
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Having put that into words, I then remembered a story from the very same class.  What happened with another pupil along the way might have influenced my really fired up guy  But I know it changed the life of the young woman, under 40, very pretty, but her body already gnarled up because of her ALS   She was a kinda agnostic, almost hippie girl who had gone to at Burning Man from its initial year in ’86 – long before it became so normal –  so commercial, and was just a hippy camp out in the desert.  Her values floated around nebulously, but her sister, one of my members, had talked to her so often about me and the Church, so she decided to try my class and find out for herself.
So there she was along with my calvinst newbie, his lady, and the rest of the potential newbies (think I had almost 20 that time around).
So after covering matters introductory and allowing the class to get a few classes under it’s belt, I struck!  Holy Week would be the week after they finished and those who wished, were Confirmed and became members.
So – I went int detail for two classes – Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the temples, His fiery sermons directed at the Pharisees – everything up to Holy Thursday.  The I started with that – especially about the Eucharist and His betrayal, the trial(s), and finally the crowds condemnation of him through Pilate, that He be crucified.  I did my pastoral best to build the tension, the forgiveness of the Gospel everywhere (by then my young active newbie calvinist was really listening!) and then, Sunday Morning.
The young woman (She was only mid-30’s – I’ll call her “Sue – not her real name which I can’t for the life of me remember), quietly asked me: “Pastor I know all about the forgiveness and blessings you are always talking about, but what about me?  I am going to die soon, painfully.  What does the Resurrection say to me?”
The three tables were set up in a horseshoe fashion, and she was seated in her wheelchair dead middle on the connecting table at the one end.  I stood in front of Sue like no one else was in the room, explained to her how the Resurrection was crucial – because Jesus rose, so must we!  And how everything brought us to the morning of the Resurrection of Jesus.  You could have heard a pin drop on the carpet.  I was NOT being melodramatic when I fell to my knees right in front of her, took her hand in mine, and said through my tears and with my voice cracking:
“My dear, dear Sue – ‘The Resurrection is the living, beating heart of the entire Christian faith, and believing it means one day the Risen Lord WILL, because He rose from the dead – will send his angels to take you home to him.  And He will take your hand as I have, lead you into the full glory his Heavenly Kingdom and say to YOU – personally – ‘Young woman, I say to you, rise and walk!'”
“And you will, forever!”

Everyone was in tears, me the worse I think, except for her weeping out loud.  Just remembered that because of the other story.

That was some class!  Those two were both miracles that happened right before my eyes!  She, like my crazy calvinist, and the whole class, were confirmed, became members, and took the Blessed Sacrament on Palm Sunday.  She always put her wheelchair just next to the second pew, because, well, as I said earlier –

No one, not even Newbies, sit in the front pew of a Lutheran Church!
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