Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Kansas City has been very good to Amy and me in many ways. Here, we’ve made many friends and acquaintances. She’s been here for twenty-five years; I’ve been here almost nine. Familiar grocery stores—Dollar General, Hy-Vee, Price Chopper—have welcomed us with familiar smells. Customer service folks have greeted us with cheerful “hellos” and smiles. Libraries have given us books and movies. They’ve taken our occasional overdue fine payments. And, I am thankful for 24 Hour Fitness and Great Clips. I know most of the stylists, trainers and front desk helpers by name. Counselors and doctors, too, have given us a lot of help here in town. We love Dr. Mowry’s bedside/office manner, always cordial, straightforward and up front about how our health is. I’ve never had a more welcoming church family than at Holy Cross Lutheran. From day one of my visiting here for house hunting, they’ve reached out to me. I found in Pastor Stirdivant an awareness of his shortcomings—in speech and comfortability around lots of people—even as he carried out His preaching, teaching and doling out Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion. He was the first in town to notice my book collection, remarking how a copy of Craig Parton’s THE DEFENSE NEVER RESTS lay on my coffee table the first day he visited me. And, when I said I hadn’t given up the desire to serve the Church as a pastor, he simply said, “Good.” Along with Pastor Bolland, Pastor Stirdivant’s voice rang throughout the nave at Holy Cross like a brass trumpet, putting God’s Law and Gospel right into my ears. Both men sought to shepherd the congregation in hardcore, unwavering faithfulness to what’s written in the Scriptures and exposited in the Lutheran Confessions.No wonder, the undying message of life from conception to natural death permeated every sermon. And, under their relentless care for everyone, we at Holy Cross donated to any number of charities in the area. When the outreach for blind and visually impaired switched host congregations, I began attending Calvary. There, Pastor Bereuter welcomed me with no strings attached. He’d welcomed Amy in the same way. And, he saw us through our very short engagement. He’s passionate about getting the good news of Jesus into folks’ ears. And his arms always open for hugging people as we process through the outside door. All this and, perhaps, more Amy and I will leave when going to Fort Wayne. Why? The Lord calls us to Fort Wayne. He gives me the opportunity to show myself approved—teaching me how best to handle His Word. He opens new doors ahead. Friendships? Godwilling, we’ll maintain the friendships we’ve made here even as we leave our immediate closeness behind. Impromptu dinners out with Joel or Penny and Sussie, seeing so many familiar faces before and after church, calling up Curt when the car needs a tweek…and babysitting little Clark? Amy and I will certainly miss these opportunities and many more. How different this is than my more rambunctious days transitioning between college and Concordia-St. Louis! Then, I always had Mom and Dad in my back pocket, or at least their voices and admonitions no matter what situation I encountered. I had their wants and concerns and needs in mind when running up against some forms of opposition. I also carried a huge suitcase of my own vendettas and fears cloaked in a kitty-cat’s vesture. When I reflect on Peter’s statement to Jesus about leaving everything behind to follow Him, I think on how every pastor or pastor-to-be looks to the cross of Christ our Savior. For as we leave behind many things to be formed into servants who teach the faithful, reach the lost and care for all, we are lavished with Jesus sustenance, righteousness and daily forgiveness. That's worth much more than its weight in gold, silver or countless dollar bills.