The Pastor’s Piece – January 29, 2023
The Pastor’s Piece
January 29, 2023
The nurse came in and said “Doc, there’s a man in the waiting room who thinks he’s invisible.” The doctor said, “Tell him I can’t see him today.”
We are in the gray, dreary days of winter. My dad always said the third week of January is always the worst of winter. As I write this I am sitting poolside in sunny Southwest Florida. It’s 72 degrees. The locals call this a cold front. Usually the pool area is packed with sun worshipers but as it turns out, I’m the only sun (and Son) worshiper here today. It’s a whole different world here and unless you experience it in the winter, you could never imagine. It’s summer all winter long. It’s surreal. There’s no walking to school in the snow uphill both ways.
When I was six years old my parents started dairy farming. Their lease started on January 1. It was an existing dairy so all mom and dad had to do was move all their machinery and household goods and settle into the house. On December 31 we moved in. That night it got down to -20 degrees. We had hot water radiator heat on the lower level of the house. Upstairs had no heat, other than what wafted up through the register in the floor from down below. When we went to bed at night we could see our breath. But we hunkered down under the blankets and mom’s old featherbed and we were toasty warm.
That first night, the boiler quit during the night and the pipes in the house froze. We awoke to the sound of water spraying everywhere. That was mom and dad’s first experience at dairy farming. After that it only got better. It must have worked because they remained dairy farmers until the day dad died 58 years later. But I imagine they must have done some serious second-guessing that first day in the business. Once a farmer, always a farmer.
A friend of mine from church had some tales to share of his childhood days. His dad died when he was 11 years old and in the summer his uncle would pick him and his older brother up to help him bale hay on his farm a couple miles away. The boys would be in the hay mow while the men baled and unloaded the wagons. The boys worked for nothing. One day, after sweating through about half a hot summer’s afternoon up there in 100 degree or higher heat, the older brother said he had enough and walked home. The younger brother followed. The uncle came in with a load and found that his free labor had disappeared. He made haste to their house and the boys hid in the basement while he scolded their mother for their irresponsible behavior. In true mom fashion, Mom stuck up for her boys and told the uncle the boys made their own work arrangements, she had nothing to do with it and he could kindly leave her house.
At that point the boys came out of hiding and told the uncle they would work – for a penny a bale. He did not like that arrangement the least bit, but figured they were still the cheapest labor around, and he had hay on the ground, so he agreed to their demands. That yielded those boys about ten bucks a day each during the haying season. A wage that seems very meager by today’s standards, but they were rich, rich indeed.
My wife’s grandfather used to reminisce about the days of old. He told me that during the Great Depression years, he worked for a farmer for 50 cents a day. That included room and board. He got every other Sunday afternoon off from noon to chore time. He was happy with that arrangement because it meant he had a job and a roof over his head. The room and hot meals were a bonus as far as he was concerned.
My first paying job I had outside the farm yielded me $5.61 an hour. That’s more than ten times what grandpa made, and was just enough to support my new bride and me as we started our lives together. Times have changed over the decades, but one thing remains pretty much the same: it seems we still have to stretch every dollar we make.
It reminds me of the miser who put a few gold coins in a small cloth sack, cinched it shut, and asked his wife to put it in his casket when he died. He hoped that somehow he could take it to heaven with him. Turns out he found himself standing before the pearly gates clutching his bag of gold, quite happy that it made it there with him. St. Peter greeted him and asked him what was in the bag? “Gold!” The man said. “Pure gold!”
To which Peter responded, “Why would you bring a bag of asphalt to heaven with you?”
“The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass,” (Revelation 21:21).
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin)