A Source of Comfort

My Uncle Rolland was a tall, thin man. While I was growing up, I only saw him when our families were on vacation together. He was the type of man who wore his black dress socks and shoes with shorts. He occasionally stepped outside to smoke a cigarette with my Uncle Art. When my dad and his brothers were playing catch with a watermelon, one of them threw the watermelon at Uncle Rolland. He looked at it and didn’t flinch. It smashed on the ground at his feet. He looked at it, drink in hand, and said, “I wasn’t going to catch that!” My cousins and I thought he was hilarious. We had so much fun on those family vacations of ours.

It was during one of those vacations that I found out my uncle was sick. I was sitting by him and he waved his hand at his legs, showing me bruises. He probably said something along the lines of “These are a result of this affliction of mine.” He had been diagnosed with leukemia. That summer he and I talked about having cancer; I was going through chemotherapy and my hair was beginning to fall out. I would run my fingers through my hair and release it onto the beach. Uncle Rolland said the doctors told him he wouldn’t lose his hair to chemo, which he was about to begin.

I gained comfort on that vacation, talking with my uncle about an affliction we both had in common. We had different diseases, different treatments, but we both had cancer. Uncle Rolland endured a lot more chemotherapy than I did. I was fortunate enough to see him several more times before he was taken to his true home about a year and a half after that summer.

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
All who by faith before the world confessed,
Your name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Text: William W. How, 1823-1897

Book Nook: "Love Bade Me Welcome"

Ed tells me that it’s very strange, that as a pastor’s kid, I find it hard to talk about my faith. I was surrounded by faith growing up, and yet it’s hard for me to lead a prayer at a committee meeting at church. I should qualify this…I have trouble sharing my faith with adults. I’m also a Sunday school teacher, and telling Bible stories and praying with kids is a lot simpler.

Perhaps it’s because we’re Lutheran; Lutherans are not known for jumping around and shouting “Amen!” Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll say something that is theologically incorrect, and embarrass myself since I’m a pastor’s kid, after all.

I’m going to break out of my mold today, and share a poem that defines my faith. I was reminded of these words when I was writing about the importance of love in our lives yesterday.

When I was in college, I sang in various choirs. One choir I was fortunate to sing in went on tours during spring break. We sang at various churches and stayed with members of the church’s congregation. This song was one of my favorites; it is a poem set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It is mostly a solo piece; I still remember the baritone that sang it. He was a graduate student, a little older than the rest of us, tall and thin with a bushy beard. I can still hear his voice filling the church during a concert:

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert (1593-1633)

Written by an Anglican priest, Love refers to Christ, who serves us even though we do not deserve to be served at all. I attended our Ash Wednesday service last night, and the words spoke to me even more. Lent is the season of repentance and forgiveness, and with some of the jealous and judgmental thoughts I’ve been thinking lately, I definitely need forgiveness!

And so I’ll end this post with a simple prayer…Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness. Amen

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