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Preparing To Die At Three Years Of Age

Preparing To Die At Three Years Of Age

I remember my baptism.


My adoptive mother was still in the process of seeking out a church when I was brought home from the neonatal unit of an unknown Chicago hospital.  When she finally decided on St. Paul Lutheran Church in the town where she graduated high school, I was around three.  I have a distant vision of my aunt carrying me to the font and the white blouse she was wearing at the time.  

(For all I know it could have been mauve - an under-appreciated color, in my opinion.)

What I do remember with at least a modest amount of more clarity were the years of childhood that followed.  Namely, the ‘Sunday School years.’  Or, as I also like to call it, the era of the blue Oldsmobile station wagon.  And it is at this time of the year when my home church has once again kicked off its own Sunday School, that I am reminded most of that time in my fleeting life.  And this year seems even more poignant as I am actually one of the teachers.  

@JoeNecromantic … molding Lutheran youth.  

What could possibly go wrong?

(Incidentally, I'm teaching at my own church: the same St. Paul. My funeral may even be there for all I know.  At that point, though, I won’t care where it is.)

I remember those drives during the 80s, sitting on the bench in the way back ala Charlie Brown and crew on their way to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving.  (An under-appreciated Peanuts special, in my opinion.  I mean Franklin even made his debut on that one.)  I remember listening to Casey Kasem’s top 40 countdown on the way there.  The likes of Sheena Easton being closer to 40 and Cinderella’s “Don’t Know What You Got ‘Til It’s Gone” coming in at it’s rightful number 1 (on the drive home).  I remember eating the animal crackers that “fell off” my Noah’s Ark art project and my brother telling me they were poisonous because they were affixed with glue.  (But it was the 80s, so even if the glue was toxic – it was a wholesome toxic.)  And, probably most importantly, I remember being in the back of that blue station wagon and wishing I could swear because I sooooooooo didn’t want to be going to “boring Sunday School.” 

As we pressed on with raindrops snaking down the panes of glass.

I remember my Sunday School teacher.  To be fair, I probably had more than one as I progressed in grade level.  But Mrs. Cedarburg was – and is – “my Sunday School teacher.”  She is the “Eunice” to my “Timothy.” She is the one who always hugged me whenever I came back as a grown man while I awkwardly returned the favor.  She served me those cupcakes at “Jesus’ birthday party” and fed me real, life-giving food in the classroom.  She did humble work with eternal results.

For no pay.

She’s in heaven today, though, enjoying riches even a dreamer like this particular Joe can’t imagine.

And, in a sort of “divine irony,” she remains the “Eunice” to the “Timothys” I begat.  For it is through her bequest to the church that my own kids are able to attend Lutheran day school.

I would be remiss in this reminiscing if I didn’t also remember the role my Mom and Dad played in the process.  I said before that the most important memory of my rides in the old blue station wagon were when I didn’t want to go.  My parents’ typical response to that attitude was “Tough, kid. You’re going.”  And while this may seem in want of the Gospel-motivating response that we parents try to craft today, for my parents it simply worked.  They were “noobs” in the Christian faith.  God used their strictness and toughness to prune my whiny ass after it was grafted into the Vine via baptism.  And I can’t stress enough: This was the 80s.  We grew up on the A-Team and GI Joe.  We were fluent in tough.

But the ultimate reason I sat down to craft this mediocre rambling was not for looking back.  

It was for looking ahead.

You see, like all believers (sorry, son of Nun [Editors Note: Literally @benNuwn]…I know you prefer people of the covenant), I have no business wondering when Jesus will reappear.  I assume that it has been appointed once for a Joe to die.  And while I wasn’t thinking about my own funeral when my eyes were wide as could be envisioning Goliath as a thousand feet tall, those days indeed matter to that one.  I was learning stories.  Amazing stories.  Unbelievable stories to the unregenerate.   

But absolute fact to me because I was brought into the covenant family by Holy Baptism.  (You’re welcome, Josh.  You owe me a beer.)

I often wonder if I will briefly shake Jesus’ hand after that massive heart attack and then immediately find Mrs. Cedarburg and give her a long and overdue meaningful hug.  

And if I do — I’m sure the Lamb will understand.

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