Let the Little Girl Dance

In 1960 Billy bland recorded a song which reached No 7 on the charts called “Let the Little girl Dance.”

   As the vicar and I walked out to the closing hymn, “In Thee is Gladness amid all sadness, Jesus sunshine of my heart” (LSB 818)a little girl was dancing in the aisle. Her grandmother pulled her back into the protection of pew so she wouldn’t be trampled by the charging clergy.  But once we passed the girl, 3 or 4 years old, wearing a pink dress was back to dancing and whirling about.  In fact, another little girl from across the aisle joined her.  I said to Vicar Jonathon, “We need more dancing.”

The little girl in the pink dress was doing what we all should have been doing as we sang the hymn written by Johann Lindemann in about 1600.  In mid- 1900 century it was wed to a tune written by a contemporary of Johann’s an Italian priest, Giovani Gastoldi who wrote several dance – like tunes.

I might no longer be able twirl like the girl, lest I end up on my bottom fleshly burl.  But I find it impossible to stand still.  For how could anyone as we dance toward the end of the second stanza?  “We shout for gladness, Triumph o’er sadness, love Him and praise Him and still shall raise Him glad hymns forever.  Alleluia.”

Thus we join the call in Psalm  148, the psalm of the day, to Alleluia the Lord along with the heavens and heights, angels and angelic armies, sun, moon and stars, waters above and waters below, sea creatures and deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist and stormy winds, mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedar, beasts and livestock, creeping things and flying birds, kings and princes, young men and maidens.  Let us all along with the little girl in the pink dress dance and sing our praises to the Lord for “In Thee is gladness.”    

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Don’t Stand in God’s Way

We Gentile Christians, that’s everyone who is not Jewish, act as if we have always been in the church.  Not so.  The first lesson for this weekend from Acts 11:1-18, centers around when “the Gentiles also received the word of God.”

The apostle Peter went up to Jerusalem to address critics who thought that Gentile believers should be circumcised as well as follow all the Jewish dietary laws.  Peter tells them of his experience when in a vision a large sheet dropped down filled with all sorts of animals, reptiles and birds.  The voice said, “Get up, kill and eat.”  Peter answered “Oh, no Lord!  Nothing impure and unclean has ever entered my mouth.”  The voice, “You should not continue to call unclean what God has made clean.” 

On the heels of that experience three men arrived at his house and the Spirit told him to go with them to Caesarea, the provincial capital of Syria (Judea,) and to proclaim the word to someone who was apparently a Gentile.  One of us.  Peter addressed his critics, “If then God gave the same gift of the Holy Spirit to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

That’s a good question for us, “Who am I to stand in God’s way, when as God tells the prophet Isaiah, ‘my ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts.’”  We also have the word in Rev. 21, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

May at a One Room Country School

Most years by mid-May grass was growing in the yard of Happy Corners School at the juncture of two gravel town roads.   In a corner of the one – acre plot carved out of Ed Jansen’s field where the snow water drained dandelions bloomed aplenty.  Dandelions were not regarded as a nuisance yet.  They could be used for making yellow tinged cheeks, good for fresh dandelions greens and creating extended chains.

May brought the opportunity to hop on our bikes in afternoon to ride to the Pipe Lake school, or Horseshoe Lake or the Comstock for a softball game.  We were no match for Pipe Lake which had two rooms against our single room school with never more than 15 kids in the eight grades.  Some years the community had not been fruitful and multiplied.  So, there may have been a vacant grade or two for the next eight years.

There came the day when the teacher told us to bring our rakes tomorrow.  That day we raked the full acre of the dead grass and leaves.  Soon, as the afternoon wore on what began as a venture and no class became a labor as our raking muscles tired.  But clean- up day was a prelude to the big picnic at the close of school.

The community had not come together since the Christmas program in December.  Now everyone was there, Bower’s, Catlin’s, Strenke’s, Olson’s, Wangzong’s Richard’s, Kolstad’s, Becker’s, Van Houten’s and Jansen’s.  We all had plenty to eat at this bountiful spring picnic.  And there was ice cream.  Ice cream was a rare treat and we made the most of it.  We “big boys,” all of 12 or 13 years of age, grabbed large coffee mugs and returned again and again until we were fair unto bursting, regretting that we could not eat one more bite.

 Then we got our report cards.  There was always a moment of hesitation.  Did I make it to the next grade?  With the good news of promotion, we were glad the school year was over.  However, personally, after a summer of hoeing and picking beans and haying in the years before we had a baler, I was ready for some vacation, which began with the new school year.

What am I doing thinking about the flamboyant surrealist Spanish painter today instead of the coffee cup on Game of Thrones, the latest tidbit on the newly born 7th in line member of the royal family (Yep, looks like a baby to me. I understand thousands of them are born every day) and whether the Cubs will now run away with the NL Central Division? Well, Salvadore Dali was born on May 11, 1904. I always liked his work though I didn’t understand much of it. But then I like Dylan Thomas’ writing and most of it is beyond me. In 1949 he returned to the church and in the following years painted scenes of Jesus passion. My favorite view of Jesus’ crucifixion is his painting of Christ on the cross floating against a black background with a body of water and a boat below. My one memory from visiting the National Art Museum in Washington D.C. in 1963 was viewing his large painting of the Last Supper. It takes nearly a whole wall of the gallery in which it is displayed. Jesus is seated at a table hosting the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Above him and in background is the see-through body of the Father with arms extended. Dali said it was a depiction of the real presence of Christ, while it also depicts the invisible the presence of the Trinity at the Sacrament. What struck me when I viewed the painting was that if one extended the line out from the Father’s arms, it would be a gesture welcoming everyone on earth to the Sacrament of the Real Presence of the Trinity. The only way to not be included would be to stand beside the painting with your back pressed against the gallery wall. I juxtaposition that experience with our attempt to attend a Good Friday Communion service at one of our churches in the evening, where we were told we could not go to communion because we came to late to speak with the pastor, never mind that we were students studying to be pastors. Ah, the church, the church.

Mother’s Day Weekend

 Recently in the Mutts cartoon (features 2 dogs and acorn throwing squirrels) one character called out on a rainy day, “Rain, rain, go away come again some other day.”  His friend replies, “What if this is the ‘other day?’”

We’ve had a lot of “other” days this spring, including today.  This morning Sarah went with us to see Adam.  We waited for the creaky elevator, gave him his banana and we walked the length of the hall in this facility in the former De Paul Hospital on north Kingshighway.

I’ve been writing a poem for Mother’s Day and searched for a fitting Bible passage.  I ended up with Prov. 31: 26-29.   The following is my slightly amended version.

She speaks with wisdom,

 Instruction is tender on her tongue.

She keeps a close eye on her family,

Never eating her bread idly.

Her children and husband

Sing her praises, saying,

“Many women have done noble deeds,

But you, them all accedes.”

Tomorrow is Good Shepherd Sunday.  In the Epistle, Rev. 7:9-17, we will hear of the multitude beyond number gathered before the throne and the Lamb, who also is the guiding shepherd. This great throng are waving palm branches.  Palm branches recalls Palm Sunday when the crowd welcomed Jesus, the new King David, into the capital city of Jerusalem.  In the Near East Palm branches are abundant and were used as decorations in Solomon’s temple.  The righteous “will flourish like the palm trees.” (Ps. 92:12) In Song of Songs, Solomon says, “Young woman, your figure is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.”  (I guess you could use that quote for Mother’s Day).

Mostly though Palm trees are associated with the Tree of Life (Rev. 22) and victory.  In Revelation it’s the victory of Christ that is celebrated.

Revelation is Never Easy

I’m filling in at Sunday morning bible Class at Resurrection on May 19.  I can teach anything I would like.  Since I’m preaching on Rev. 22 on June 2, over in Illinois, and the Epistle lesson for May 19, is from Rev. 21, why not give myself a head start by looking at the texts leading into Rev. 22.  You will recall that Rev. 22 is the last book of the bible and starts with the river flowing with the water of life right down main street.

Rev. 21 begins with the Bride of Christ, New Jerusalem, which is the church descending from heaven and God taking up residence on the earth in the New earth and new heaven.  To understand that whole new earth and heaven thing we need to look back at the description of the resurrection in Rev. 20:11-15 which also mentions heaven and earth fleeing God.  But then to understand the resurrection scene we need to look at the judgment of all the demonic enemies of the believers which is featured in chapters 17-20:10. Then we need to look at the first and second deaths and the first and second resurrections.

But to understand the Bride of Christ we need to look at Rev. 19:6-9.

Now if you are still hanging in there with me and not twirling around in circles you can see that if I’m not careful I’m going to end up back in Rev. 1.  By the way speaking of circles, Rev. is not written in a linear fashion beginning at the beginning and ending at the end.  It is a series of circles which lap back on one another with flash backs and leaps ahead, besides all the visions of seven horned beasts and numbers that aren’t to be taken literally.

But despite the risk of turning into a whiling dervish, I am going to teach Rev. 21 on May 19, after we cover parts of Chapter 20. Take that John.

Leaving the Maple Helicopter Pad on a Sunday Morning

            We left our maple helicopter pad, with a light scent of Japanese lilac lingering, at 7:05 aiming the blue Kia for Illinois.  Across the Father of Waters on the J.B Bridge we traveled, where the ol’ man river was still free to roam from home into Illinois backwaters.  Greed feeding dikes and levees turning the river into a piped channel in the name of progress and economic development have not yet been inflicted on this area south of St. Louis.

            Along highway 3 we hailed Columbia as we passed through, making a pit stop at MotoMart.  Then on to Waterloo without meeting ours, skirting around the location of Napoleon’s demise, on a new four lane bypass.  Twelve miles on we came to Redbud, where I have never seen any redbuds budding red.  The winter wheat was flourishing in the fields as was the yellow rocket in neglected places.  Corn which should have been “this high” is not yet planted nor the soybeans.  Too wet, “But it’ll turn out alright,” said a farmer at St. John’s, “Always does.”

St John’s is just south of Ruma, pop. 300 where hwy. 155 branches off to old Fort Kaskaskia, the road was closed informed the orange sign.  We travel down the hill out of Ruma and up another rise where on its ascent we spot the welcome cross topped steeple with the church soon emerging about a quarter mile off to the left along 1st road, between two fields.

At St John’s the acoustics are grand and the people huggingly friendly.  “Should I give the check to you or just give it to your wife?” asks the treasurer who knows.  “Give it to my wife, why bother with the middle man?”

After that service we are on south a few miles across the flooded to Kaskaskia river to St. Peter’s where the people are friendly and reserved and the acoustics making singing difficult.

Shortly after 11:00 we are retracing our route, while I eat my lunch arriving home about noon.  So, it is on a Sunday morning in the Lord’s vineyard, in his field, among his flock.  We’ll be back on June 2nd.

You Gotta Love a Sense of Humor

It occurred to me that as Proverbs 10:12 advises, “Hate starts quarrels, but love covers every wrong.”  That bit of wisdom is echoed in I Peter 4:8, when he advises that having been loved to death by Christ, “Above all, continue to love one another fervently, because love covers many sins.”  James ends his letter in the same way.

This love is a determination not to let our faults and foibles and sins become an obstacle in our relationship with God and with one another.  After all, Paul tells us in I Cor. 13, that when all is said and done, love alone will stand.

Now what I just wrote about in the above is not what I intended to write.  That’s the problem with writing, the writer often loses control and the whole kit and kaboodle goes off in its own direction.

What I intended to write was, that love may cover a multitude of sins, but a sense of humor covers a bunch of stuff too.   The only thing which comes to mind is the words of my German teacher at Concordia College. St. Paul.  Mr. Ehrhardt, liked to say when something happened in class, “Hans Vockle sweet petunia, ja, ja, ja.”  He said that when he asked Tom Schoenborn, one spring afternoon, to continue reading using a word that sounded like “Weider.” So, Tom got up and opened the window wider.  Mr. Ehrhardt used the phrase when Dave came into class late and said, “Besser Spate als nie.”  Better late than never.

You gotta love it.