Pastor’s Email Devotion — Guest Devotioneer, Carol Esbenshade
The Week of Pentecost 7
July 5, 2015
Remember Charlie Brown, who back in the 1960’s, famously said “happiness is a warm puppy”? For those in dire need, around the world, happiness can be something as basic as a nutritious meal or a clean, safe place to sleep at night. For many of us, happiness usually involves family and friends as we experience graduations, weddings, new births, retirement, or perhaps the beauty and emotion of singing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve as tears can often well up in our eyes. What makes you happy?
“Happiness” is often a relative term. In 1776, our founding fathers expressed the desire for the “pursuit of happiness.” To them happiness meant self-worth and a feeling of dignity. The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture has found that a strong correlation exists between religious affiliation and personal happiness. Religious people are much happier and have more ‘life satisfaction’ than others, according to a new study.
Did the pursuit of happiness motivate our church founders to build a Lutheran church in Neffsville 135 years ago? We’re not sure. And, could they have dared to imagine the changes that would take place during the next one hundred plus years? Our church founders had little formal schooling, but they had a vision, a compelling vision, and they had a leader.
We are grateful to John B. Wechter, Neffsville’s postmaster, for taking the leadership role in the development of a new church. I encourage you to take a leisurely walk through our cemetery. You will find John Wechter’s grave in the older section, on the slope of the hill. Pause there for a minute or two and reflect on his humble life and the wheels he set in motion.
One of the things that makes me and other members of the Archives Committee happy is the unique privilege of carefully handling our old documents, all hand written on now “brittle” paper, upon which our leaders signed their names. You’re probably picturing something similar to the Declaration of Independence. Think again! Instead, they used an inexpensive paper, the kind often used for newsprint, some are written in pencil. The handwriting is faded and often difficult to decipher. Misspelled words are not uncommon. Despite everything, handling these old documents can become a religious experience in itself. I often try to imagine what our founders looked like, the clothes they were wearing, or what they were thinking when they signed their names. These are the confessions of an archives “nerd.”
We have just observed the first of two anniversary celebrations this year. The Archives Committee will again display some items from our collection on Sunday, September 12th when Pastor Richard E. Geib is our preacher at both traditional services. Our new curio cabinet, a gift from Dorothy Cooper, is now permanently located in the narthex and archival displays will be changed periodically.
A favorite quote of mine is from Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Today, we at St Peter’s, also stand on the shoulders of giants.
Prayer: As we mark this special time, we are grateful and especially mindful of all who have blessed this community through its 135 years. May we continue to be a light that cannot be hidden so that others may know your great love. AMEN.