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Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19a,20b

 

 


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Pastor Rob Rogers was born in Seattle Washington. He has a B.A. in Communication from Concordia University, Austin, TX and a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. READ MORE >>

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Pentecost 8 – July 26, 2020
Text:  Matthew 13:51-52
Theme:         For Whom Are You The Colonel?

 

        Colonel Mac Ledbetter was the smartest man I ever knew, at least in my 12 year old world. He had fought the Japanese, the North Koreans and the North Vietnamese, and he had lived to tell about it.  He had hunted Grizzly Bears in Alaska and fished for Octopus in the Mediterranean.  He knew how to tie every knot known to man and could grow tomatoes as big as softballs.  He was my hero when I was in middle school and he more or less adopted me as his grandson.  We fished for catfish in the little pond near his trailer where he and his wife lived.  We went on excursions for no particular reason to the hardware store.  We planted tomatoes and we talked about love and life and phases of the moon, but what impressed me the most about the Colonel was not what he taught, but how he learned. 

        He was eager to know more all the time, especially about God.  He was in church every Sunday.  We were members of a little mission congregation and the pastor served two congregations so he was always in and out pretty fast but I remember the Colonel following him to his car and asking questions about the sermon that Sunday, and I remember Pastor answering through the window as he sped away to get to the next service in the neighboring town 20 miles away.  Every time we were invited to the Colonel’s house for Sunday dinner, which was frequently, the Bible was brought out about an hour before dinner and a rousing discussion was had.  He would look at my dad and say something like, “Ed, what do you make of this business about the Kingdom of Heaven being a pearl of great price?”  And then he was off, asking his wife, my mother, my father and me question after question, one Bible story leading to another and that one leading on from there.  The Colonel saw Christianity not as a topic to be mastered but as an ongoing conversation to be had.  The Bible was not a text to be memorized and put away, but a living voice to be heard and a voice that was begging for a response from us.  God was not a distant deity on a mountain but a participant in the ongoing discussions of life and love and phases of the moon.  I can hear the Colonel in my head saying to his wife, “Well that’s an interesting idea Carol.  Let’s see what the Lord says about that?”  Then he would be digging through his giant, old Bible which was ragged from use.

        I think the Colonel got it.  It is what Jesus was trying to tell his disciples in our Gospel for today.

        “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” On the one hand, Jesus has revealed everything we need to know in his Word.  That’s the old.  But that Word is infinitely new in that it applies in new and different ways to new and different situations.  The Colonel understood that his job was to bring out the old to address the new.  In one sense, there is nothing new under the sun.  He knew that.  But he also knew that every generation brings a new twist to the table and his job was to teach them how to apply the Word to that new twist.

        The Colonel could have never imagined protest groups tearing down statues of revered people in history.  He would have been dumbfounded at the need for the President of the United States of America to redirect federal employees to help keep peace in Chicago.  Having lived through the Spanish Flu, Polio and the Hong Kong Flu, not to mention the Great Depression, 2 world wars, Korea and Vietnam, he would have been dumbfounded at the world’s reaction to the Corona Virus.  But I am certain that he would have handled it the same way he handled everything else.  He would have pulled out his raggedy Bible and begun to search for what the Lord had to say about being afraid of viruses, living in dangerous times and being faithful Christians in the midst of chaotic circumstances.

        He understood that we possess what is old: the Gospel that teaches us that Jesus died on the cross for our salvation and the Law that shows us the best way to live this life so that it is full of joy and contentment even in the midst of danger and uncertainty.  But that which is old must be communicated to those who are new, the next generation.  If we do not teach, how will they know? 

        We teach first by our example.  If you do not live as though the Word of God and the Sacraments are the most important part of your week, the next generation, who is watching you, will most likely think that God’s Word and Sacraments are not as important as something else: work, vacation, relaxing, gardening or whatever a person might place before God. If you do not take every opportunity to talk about and teach the things of God, the next generation, who is listening to you, will not know about the things of God. If you do not live as though devotion to God is the central part of your whole life, the next generation, who is learning from you, will not know that God is supposed to be centermost.

        By the way, my parents were both fairly devout Christians, and I learned a great deal from them about God and the Church, but it was the Colonel who drove it home for me.  Children learn quantitatively more from their parents, but it is often another adult in their lives who helps them sort out all the stuff their parents taught them.  Which things are Godly truths to be held, and which are their parents’ idiosyncrasies that can be ignored? The Colonel confirmed for me that the stuff about God was real truth to be grasped and treasured. Now ask yourself, for whom are you the Colonel and what old things are you bringing out for the new generation to see?  What pearls of great price are you showing them? Do they know that they are Jesus’ treasure?  Be the Colonel for someone in your life and pass the torch of faith to them.