Luther Seminary God Pause
Monday, 10/27/2014 Reading: Matthew 23:1-12
This is the week of preparing for the celebration of All Saints Sunday. The alternate lessons assigned for this festival will be mined for what they say about the characteristics of a saint. Jesus, in Matthew's gospel, describes what a saint is not: "They do not practice what they teach."
I was seventeen when I left home to work as a section hand at the Minnesota Transfer Railroad Yards. I had worked in a grocery store and woolen mill, but I had never worked in an environment like this. I checked into my gang shack on Monday morning and realized that I would be paired with Leon, who lived in a boxcar and seldom smiled or spoke. I would be setting the spike for Leon's first swing. (He needed only two swings to tuck in the tie plate.) Frank walked bow legged to ease the pain of his VD. Stan was from Switzerland and carried his belongings in a small canvas bag. There were eight of us who made up our section gang in the summer of 1953. I drank left-handed from the dipper when I noticed that everyone else chewed tobacco and was right handed.
Jim was our boss and he barked out his orders with a creative choice of adjectives and adverbs. He was a seasoned veteran of the railroad world, but he always came to work on Monday mornings with a hangover. Whatever shape Jim was in and whatever his vocabulary, we all knew that he was the one who determined whether or not we would get a paycheck. But he was a "straw boss." He ordered us around, but he never so much as lifted up a pick or spade or helped set a tie or rail. I was only a green seventeen year old, but I knew why the railroad was in trouble. Straw bosses had no vision. They lived only to survive.
Jesus spoke these words to his followers shortly before he was executed, and he urged them to not model their lives after the religious "straw bosses." "The greatest among you will be your servant." A saint is known by her or his actions and not by words.
Lord Jesus, we all know saints whose actions have affirmed us, set paths of service for us, and modeled what it means to be directed by you who went to the cross for us. Help us to live as those you have redeemed to be saints. In your name we pray. Amen.>
Hub Nelson Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Edina, Minn. (Retired) Master of Divinity, 1962
Matthew 23:1-12 (NRSV)
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father--the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
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