Reverend Meningsbee (Part 47) Increase and Decrease … March 26th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

June in Nebraska is a celebration. It is a festival of survival.

Until the end of May, winter threatens to clamp down on any enthusiasm about the arrival of warmer weather. But by June, the monster of frigid temperatures and the obstruction of snow drifts have melted away, leaving behind fields blossoming with corn, sunny skies and the threat of blistering heat.

One local once conjectured that the reason most Nebraskans were so easy-going was because “everything that happens around them is so extreme.”

They wouldn’t dare over-react–to a blizzard or a heat wave.

It was on the third Sunday in June, right when people were beginning to think about the upcoming July 4th celebration, that he came walking into the back of the church.

At first Meningsbee didn’t recognize him. He certainly didn’t remember him being so tall–six foot two, as it turned out. Dark brown hair, chiseled chin, hazel eyes and weighing in at a military 183 pounds was Carl Ramenstein, the young hero who had rescued Meningsbee months earlier in Chicago, from the onslaught of some challenging questions.

As Carl had explained, he had a cousin in town and he came to spend a couple of weeks, having recently graduated from seminary.

Carl fit right in. Everybody loved him. He grew up on a farm, worked on a ranch, liked fishing, knew the working end of a plow.

All the kids adored him because he played so hard. All the old ladies straightened their buns when he walked in the room. And the men pulled out their war stories. It took only one Sunday for Carl to become part of the atmosphere, attitude and heart of the Garsonville Church.

So when two weeks passed and it was time for him to leave, the folks begged him to stay. It turned out to be tremendously beneficial, considering that on the following Wednesday, a little boy about five years old fell into an abandoned well just outside town. Carl spearheaded the rescue effort.

He was in the local newspaper and had dinner invitations enough to last the rest of the year.

But Carl was not interested in all the praise. Carl loved God. In a season when such devotion from a man of his age seemed unlikely, or maybe even suspicious, his legitimate warmth and appreciation for the heavenly Father was demonstrated in how well he treated his children.

Carl loved people.

Meningsbee stood back–astounded. You see, Meningsbee wanted to love people and every once in a while mustered the spirit to do so. But Carl possessed a streak of conviction that every human he met had been waiting for the chance to meet him so that Carl could pass on a blessing.

It was the most amazing mixture of confidence and humility that Reverend Meningsbee had ever seen.

Young women were literally following him around town, just hoping he would turn and give them a smile, and although fully aware of their attractions, he was careful not to put himself in dangerous situations where rumor could give way to scandal.

The people took a liking to Carl.

Carl took a liking to the church.

The church was taking a liking to the community, and the people, who had been sitting on the fence, trying to decide what it felt about the Garsonville Church, were now beginning to trickle in, one by one, and find a place of peace and fellowship.

Matter of fact, one older gentleman took Pastor Meningsbee aside and said, “My dear parson, you had a good idea, but you’re a rather odd little fellow. There’s nothing wrong with that–but Nebraskans are not completely familiar with odd and try not to do much that resembles little. That boy coming to town–well, he’s taken your words and turned them to life.”

Meningsbee smiled, not knowing how he should react.

Although some folks were waiting for the dark side of young Ramenstein to come creeping out, Carl took the opportunity to sit under the teaching, simplicity, honesty and common sense of Meningsbee, and grow taller and stronger.

So Carl kept delaying his departure until finally, one of the deacons of the church said to Meningsbee that he’d better “hire the boy or lose him forever,” because somebody certainly was going to grab him.

When Meningsbee said that the budget would not tolerate it, ten families stepped forward and offered to increase their pledges so that Carl could stay.

So it was on the seventh Sunday after his first visit that Carl Ramenstein was ordained as the Assistant Pastor of the Garsonville Church.

There was a party with joy all through the town.

The following Sunday there were twenty additional visitors, some of whom said they had just been “waiting around to see if they were smart enough to hire him.”

Right after the ordination, Meningsbee realized that he had never heard the young man preach. Carl never asked for the pulpit. It never came up. Carl may have been the first minister ever hired without having to offer three points.

The folks immediately dubbed him “Pas Carl,” for Pastor Carl.

He was a breath of fresh air.

He was a summer miracle.

And he was here to stay.

Now Meningsbee had to get used to sharing the attention.

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Jesonian… March 25th, 2017

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When John, son of Zebedee, sat down to pen his recollections of traveling with Jesus of Nazareth, he had two goals in mind:

  1.  He wanted the reader to know that Jesus was the only begotten son of God.
  2. He also wanted the reader to understand that Jesus was a flesh and blood human being.

So the same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead often finds himself trapped in squabbles with disciples and Pharisees who totally misunderstand his motives.

Nowhere is this clearer than in John the 7th Chapter, when Jesus is once again thrust in the middle of a squall with his Nazareth family. Since he spent his first thirty years in the household of Joseph the Carpenter, one might think that many of these misunderstandings would have been worked out, and that smoother paths would have been pursued.

But as soon as Jesus decided not to be “normal,” his family dubbed him “weird.”

  • They sought him out to bring him home because they thought he was crazy.
  • They stood idly by when the townspeople of Nazareth pushed him to the edge of the cliff, threatening to cast him to his death.
  • And in John the 7th Chapter, they taunt him about his newfound fame, asserting that if he really wanted to “promote his gig,” he should do it at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, where there would be large crowds.

It is a nasty and bitter piece of resentment and jealousy. Some theologians even think that his family members may bave been paid to intimidate him into going to Jerusalem so that assassins lying in wait could kill him on the journey.

We know that Jesus is still trying to work out his own feelings about this nuclear family, because he speaks back to them just as bratty as they spoke to him.

Paraphrasing, “Since you are common laborers with nothing special about you, you can go to the feasst anytime you want and no one will care one way or another. I, on the other hand, wait on instructions from my Father.”

It is one of those examples where Jesus breaks pattern with the conservative Christians of our generation today. On any given Sunday, almost every minister will tout from the pulpit the importance of our personal families–the beauty of fellowship involved in those relationships. But even with a cursory look, we quickly discover that Jesus loved his family, but not more than he loved his fellow humans.

Cases in point:

When they told him that his family had come to see him, he pointed to the crowd and said, “These are my family–those who do the will of my Father.”

When Mary asked him to do something to provide wine for the Cana wedding feast, he called her “woman” and said that he was not at her bidding, but waiting for the right time.

Of course, in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “If you only love those who love you, you’re no better than the heathen.”

And he goes on to say that if you don’t “hate your mother and father, you are not worthy of the kingdom”–not because he was trying to pull families apart, but rather, trying to break curses, genetic trends and predilections which cause children to become just like their parents, choiceless.

And on this occasion in John 7, he makes it clear that he will not be intimidated by his brothers and sisters just so they can force him to become “one of the clan.”

Later, he does attend the Feast of Tabernacles–but on the bidding of the Spirit, not the coercion of family.

What can we learn from Jesus about family?

You can love them, trust them and listen to them as long as they do not steal your identity and your calling. Then, if they choose to do that, for a while you can just love them–until the day that they finally understand.

Even though Jesus died, rose from the grave and went to heaven without the support of his Nazareth home, we know that at least three of them–James, Jude, and of course, Mother Mary–ended up becoming ardent followers of his message. 

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