Pastor’s Corner Rev. Carol Kress, pastor, Gladbrook United Methodist Church Gladbrook, Iowa-We are Better Together
February 28, 2014
We are Better Together Scripture: “When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, ‘child, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2.5) Rev. Dr. Tex Sample was a seminary professor when I was enrolled at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, MO. Students would line up to enroll in his classes and when prospective seminarians visited, they commonly sat in on his lectures. H taught classes on ethics and was the kind of professor who could bring his topic to life through the use of excellent stories and classroom discussions. He represented our denomination at the World Council of Churches and was widely-traveled. His knowledge of the Bible was only exceeded by his love for Jesus. Tragedy struck the family of Tex. Sample a semester when I was enrolled in his class. He was teaching a course on “Country Music and the Common Christian.” Sandy, his son was killed in a motorcycle accident during week of Holy Week. Sandy had lead a troubled life. He wandered from the faith of his parents and had been dis-honorably discharged from military service. He went from job to job, girlfriend to girlfriend, and town to town. Finally Sandy had agreed to go through rehabilitation and his life was getting back on track. He had joined a motorcycle club (Bikers for Jesus) and his future appeared to be bright. Now this. Our class was not held because the Sample family was together that week. Attendance at the funeral in the chapel at St. Paul was huge. It included about 40 motorcycle riders in their leathers who led the procession from the chapel to the burial site in Gladstone. (That was pretty exciting for our little seminary). Tex returned to the classroom the week after Easter but he wasn’t the same. He looked ashen and gaunt. Although he tried to teach he was only going through the motions and by the end of the week he announced he could not go on. Another professor came of retirement to take it over. Later, the story of something special was shared with our class by another great professor, Dr. Baughman. He testified of the power of Christ in community during the dark night of the soul which Dr. Sample had faced. Late one night Tex was at a gathering of the trusting and wise professors of St. Paul Seminary. He confessed to them that his son’s death had robbed him of his faith. He could not feel the presence of God nor hold onto a conviction in God’s love and mercy. Dr. Lovett Weems, the President of St. Paul Seminary was there. In response he read a portion of Mark 2 to the group. In this text Jesus is at home in Capernaum and everyone is crowding into his house to hear the word and be healed. Four friends, in order to bring their comrade before the great healer, break a hole in the roof and lower their paralyzed friend before Jesus with ropes on a pallet. The text tells us that Jesus looked up, saw their faith, and healed the man. Weems invited those gathered that to surround Dr. Sample, to lay hands upon him and to pray for him. “If you can’t believe right now” he said to Sample, “we will believe for you.” It was a blessed moment for all who were involved. Not long after this experience of being lifted down through the roof to the feet of Jesus by the faith and conviction of his friends, the dark cloud of gloom that had swallowed Tex began to dissipate. Soon he was back in the classroom. This story is a good reminder. None of us can be a Christian alone and the zeal of our faith will naturally ebb and flow through the good and challenging experience in life. We gather to worship precisely because God has given us one another for the encouragement and consolation of one another. It is a blessing and honor to carry the faith for another person who feels weak. One day they will be stronger and may be able to carry it for you. Your presence in worship isn’t just for your own edification. It is also for the sake of your sisters and brothers in Christ. Pray that God will open your eyes and heart to the ones who feel strong and those who feel weak. We are most definitely better when we are together.
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