This past week, I gave a presentation on pastoral care to a group of future pastors at my Alma Mater. Revisiting the school I graduated from nearly two decades ago (how did that happen so quickly?) was good for me. Memories came flooding back. I had some nice chats with my professors and former schoolmates now turned professors. I even drove past the duplex where we brought our second daughter home on a cold March day.

As thankful as I am for what I received at that place years ago, and as thankful as I am for whom I received it from; perhaps the best part was the timely reminder that not all worthwhile schooling happens in institutions of higher learning.

My mind wandered as I drove through the snow and the slush on the way home that afternoon. I found myself thinking about the joy in the lessons I learned this week, not at a desk and not at a podium, but lessons learned from everyday life through the actions of my neighbors.

  • I learned that the unruly kid in the weekly confirmation class still is one who longs to be understood; who longs to be heard; who longs to be loved.
  • I learned that sickness still hurts and death still stings and Jesus still lives to wipe away tears as death drew near to a sister in Christ and I sang Simeon’s old words: “Lord now you let your servant depart in peace.”
  • I learned that little things from years ago are not always so little in the eyes of your child.
  • I learned that laughter--while maybe not the best medicine--is still good medicine.
  • I learned that words can go a long way; that a simple “I appreciate it” to the deli clerk and the same to the barista can elicit a hearty “And I appreciate you.” (And how simple and worthwhile it is to tell those whom you appreciate that you do appreciate them
  • I learned that the home and the school and the congregation and the places of everyday life where mercy is given and mercy is received are fantastic places to be.
  • I learned that Jesus actually meant, “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20). And I learned that the time spent gathered around his gifts is so necessary for me. And for my neighbor.

Gustaf Wingren once wrote: “There is nothing more delightful and loveable on earth than one’s neighbor.” If the first descriptors you would give for your neighbor are not “delightful” and “loveable,” bear with me. “Love does not think about works, it finds joy in people” (Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation, 43).

Your salvation comes not as an idea nor as a concept but as flesh and blood crucified and risen for you.

There is a real joy in this: our Lord Jesus became man for me and for you. Your salvation comes not as an idea nor as a concept but as flesh and blood crucified and risen for you. While each day is a day by nature where I am curved in on myself, my thoughts so easily and so naturally turn to “how I can best serve me, myself, and I”; true love has come, Christ Jesus. His way is not the way of incurvatus in se, but he has turned me outward, thinking of others.

And there is real freedom there, freedom from thinking about works as righteousness and freedom from knowing only one righteousness: the forgiveness of sins. Wingren again: “Only as the old man, still under the law, does the Christian ask about the righteousness of his works. Faith and the new man knows only one righteousness: the forgiveness of sins. It is in his neighbor in whom the new man finds his joy” (Luther on Vocation, 46).

What a fun little thought: in schools and at deathbeds and on barstools and in delis and where two or three gather, your Savior turns you loose to encounter those who are delightful and loveable. You, delightful and loveable in him, are thus freed to love. Freed to serve.

This week I am thankful again for seminaries and colleges and classrooms and, dare I say, most of all, thankful for the delightful and loveable people the Lord puts into my sphere.