November 17, 2019
It began with a can of peaches. Jonathan was a few months into solid foods and we had finally introduced him to fruit. An elderly gentleman at our church discovered Jonathan particularly enjoyed canned peaches. The first few Sundays he would come with his sweet, token offering of one can of peaches. A few weeks later that offering expanded into 3 cans of fruit. That grew into a grocery bag with assorted grocery items that happened to be on sale on any given week. I remember the bag often included pistachios and always, one can of peaches. Todd and I were uncomfortable with this growing collection we received each week and we tried to put a stop to it on multiple occasions but Mr. Buller was not only generous, he was pretty stubborn too. And the grocery offering just kept steadily growing. In time, every Sunday without fail, he would come with a full cooler and 2-3 filled grocery bags. Our relationship grew by leaps and bounds as well. When we arrived at Bergthal, Mr. Buller was struggling with deep grief having lost his wife less than a year earlier. Interestingly, he objected to women in ministry on principle and presented a very traditional and conservative approach on all things theological and political. But loneliness drove him to seek us out in a special way and ministering to us seemed to give him renewed purpose in life. He would go grocery shopping every day to find the best deals to add to that week’s collection of groceries for our pantry. We celebrated birthdays together and he gifted the kids with incredibly thoughtful presents. Every year he spent Christmas Day with us and he became like a second grandpa to all four of us. When I received the phone call on September 30, 2010 that our dear 93 year old Mr. Buller had slipped quietly away in his sleep, I was overcome. I jumped in the car and cried my way to Hutchinson, to Todd, so I could break the news to him in person, so we could weep together. Almost 10 years later and I still miss him.
A few weeks ago, Joanne shared with me that she wanted to do a children’s story on adoption. What a perfect topic for this congregation that has had the opportunity to celebrate so many adoptions over the years! I decided I wanted to frame my message around adoption as well, so I’ve just kind of been trying to immerse myself in a whole variety of scripture texts in preparation. And if the link to my Mr. Buller story isn’t yet apparent, well, I’ll come back to that.
One of the first points I think scripture makes is that God has a special place in his heart for children who don’t have parents who can care for them and the Bible makes it very clear that if we’re following God, then we need to be looking out for kids in need. Here are a few verses from among dozens.
Deuteronomy 10:17-18 from the NRSV – For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.
Psalm 146:9 from The Message Bible – God loves good people, protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but makes short work of the wicked.
Isaiah 1:23-25 from The Living Bible – Your leaders are like rebels, companions of thieves; all of them take bribes and won’t defend the widows and orphans. Therefore, the Lord of Hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, says: I will pour out my anger on you, my enemies! I myself will melt