Words have meaning, even words we don’t use. Sometimes several events tend to amalgamate into a single memory. I’m standing in the living room of my in-law’s home. It’s time to go. Tomorrow, Lois and I are going to dinner with friends. Or to a Church social. Or something very similar. People that my in-laws know are going to be there. Maybe it’s the Holiday Season or close to it.
My father-in-law has buttonholed me. Again. Our coats are on, the door is ajar and the crisp fall of Autumn is wafting in. The old reverend has my hand and won’t let go. I glance over at Lois. She’s about to say something, and I shoot her a sheepish little smile to tell her it’s OK. This is a lot of Pastor Behr to deal with, but it really is OK.
Romans 1:7 – To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I Miss This Man. I Miss His Words.
“Philip,” he says in that German accent that seems to be getting thicker with age. His face is kind, his grip pleasantly firm. Light blue eyes which I’ve seen sparkle with the joy of holding his grandchildren are somber now. “Philip, Brother Jones is going be there tomorrow. Please. Greet him in the name of the Lord for me.”
Of course I promise to do so, not meaning a word of it. If he asks later, I’ll just say he didn’t get a chance to talk to him. I have never met Brother Jones, and would not know him on sight. What’s more, I suspect Dad knows this.
2 Corinthians 1:2 – Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul chose is words carefully.
“Also, the Browns will be the guest speaker on Mission Sunday at your Church” (OK, how does he know what’s going on at my Church better than I do?). “We knew them when they were just starting out in the mission field. Please. Give them our greetings.”
“Dad.” Lois says flatly.
We both glance her way. What she doesn’t say is ‘let my husband go, already.’
I look for my mother-in-law to rescue me. She’s engaged with my four-year-old daughter. No help coming from there.
What Would The Apostle Paul Do?
I try to be a little more truthful this time and tell him Lois and I will if the opportunity presents itself. We don’t know these people. They don’t know us. Should I take notes? I wasn’t thinking sarcastically here. Seriously, I really thought about digging out a pen and writing their names down. I didn’t, of course.
Galatians 1:3 – Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
We finally dis-engage, and Lois and I are out the door. Once on the road, she pats my arm and gives me one of her winning smiles. “You’re such a good son-in-law.”
I smile sheepishly back.
Twenty years later, I live with this regret. Perhaps it’s just a case of youth being wasted on the young. Perhaps it is the clarity that the separation of years often affords us. But I have come to appreciated the greeting, the salutation, and upon refection, the benediction and blessing.
Philippians 1:1 & 2 – Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I really wish I had delivered all those greetings on Dad’s behalf. Because it meant something to him. What’s more, I’m convinced that it means something to The Almighty. To give an in-person greeting, on someone’s behalf keeps a tradition. Dad was Old School, and when I say that, I mean Azuza Street Old School. He lived his life like we were all one family in Christ. And he used words no one uses anymore.
The Apostle Paul wrote some magnificent prose. A reading of his greetings to the Early Church, gives an illustration of God’s deep and abiding love for all of us. I favor the rich texture of the King James translation. Other translations get the point across, too.