Lent Midweek 3 – Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March 7, 2018  

“Simplicity”

Luke 18:15-17

I’d like to tell you about a man I know whose life has embodied “simplicity.” I don’t think he ever made a conscious decision to live simply. I think simplicity has been a way of living that reflects what he believes about life, specifically about life lived as a faithful child of God.

He was born just over 90 years ago in southeastern Wisconsin, which means he was a child growing up during the Great Depression. There were few jobs available for adult men those days; this man’s father, a carpenter by trade, didn’t have a job but did odd jobs that provided him with enough money to sustain the family. Sustain sometimes meant having potatoes in the root cellar and milk on the table, not much more. But there was food. And shelter. And clothes to wear.

The family was Lutheran. This man’s parents were charter members of the local Lutheran Church. People told stories about his parents, about his father working all day, then going to church in the evening, helping to build the church’s first building. This man’s mother was a homegrown biblical scholar. Every day of her adult life, usually in the evening she practiced her faith, devoting specific time to praying and studying. People passing by the family’s home in the evening would see her long after dark, sitting beneath a standing lamp with a single bulb burning, a bible in her lap.

There was nothing fancy about the way the family lived. They worked hard. They gardened. They fished. They hunted. They believed in God. They went to church.

This man graduated high school at 17, immediately enlisting in the navy. He once said he thought the enemy must have known he was coming because, five weeks after he enlisted World War 2 ended. He was honorably discharged after serving one week less than a year.

He went home. He enrolled in a Lutheran College on the GI bill, which covered his first 2 years of school. Then he transferred to Iowa State, where he got a degree in engineering.

After graduating college, in the midst of the Korean War he was drafted into the army. He served state-side.

After military service he moved to southern WI where he met the woman who would become his wife. They moved to Illinois, where he was hired to do research and development for a local manufacturer.

It was the 1950’s. People were living the American Dream, marrying, buying houses, raising children, working long hours.

He didn’t work long hours because he wanted more of anything, he worked long hours because he believed God had given him certain gifts and talents; it was his responsibility to use those talents to their greatest ability. He was giving them back to God. Honestly, in his mind is was coincidental when he became successful, which he did. He became a Vice –president of the company, in charge of research and design.

More important to him was his family, his church, his home…

When their children were young (five of them) the family didn’t have a lot. There weren’t resources for fancy living. The children’s clothes were sewn or handed down. Vegetables came from the large garden they kept, just like the one his parents had. Fruit came from the trees in the yard. Some meat was hunted, some caught fishing. Life was creative, it was fun. There weren’t a lot of complications.

Even when he was a vice-president of the company, this man never owned more than one suit. He had suit jackets, most of them polyester. Evenings and weekends he wore jeans, usually riding low on his hips, his shirt-tail hanging half in, half outside his pants.

The greatest gift this man ever received was and is his heart. His heart was and is faithful, joyful, humble… Even now when he talks about his faith in God it is without arrogance, without specific demands, but with great conviction. His faith inspires the way he has lived his whole life. Inward realities inspire his outer life.

***

When children went to Jesus, his disciples tried to stop them from bothering him. Jesus reprimanded the disciples, saying “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).

It strikes me, the children going to Jesus went without possessions, without anything weighing them down, without anything other than a desire to touch and to be touched.

This is “simplicity.” This desire to go to Jesus, to touch him and to be touched—this is how faith begins. Faith doesn’t need to be much more complicated than that… except we add another layer to our faith by turning around and sharing that desire with others, so they too can be touched.

The simplicity of faith is rooted in one thing and one thing only: love. God’s love. If we simply focus on that, our lives are and will be full.

Amen.