The story goes how the teacher instructed her students to pass their essay papers forward so
she could collect them. The students dutifully did as they were told, except for one little boy,
who walked up to her desk and handed the teacher his pencil.
“What’s this,” she asked?
“It’s my essay,” he responded.
“This is your pencil,” she said.
“Yes,” he said, “but my essay is inside that pencil. You just need to get it out of there.”
If this column were a sermon, I would say here that I’ve decided to start a new series today. It
will be about people I’ve met over the years in my life, and the enduring memories those people
have left upon me. I tried to put a number on the number of people I have met in my life - but
that seems impossible - it would be in the tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of
thousands people. I couldn’t possibly recall them all, but I can recall some, so let’s begin.
When I was a lad working in the garden one day alongside my dad, a salesman came by selling
hail insurance. Although Dad had insurance for other things, up until now, he never had crop
insurance. While we hoed weeds and hilled up the dirt around the garden plants, dad listened
while the man made his pitch. Dad was not fully convinced he needed crop insurance, so when
the salesman was done, he said he would consider the man’s offer and let him know later in the
week. That night at the dinner table, dad and mom and us kids discussed the idea of hail
insurance. As with any insurance policy, the risks and probabilities were weighed into the
decision-making process. When it comes to hail storms in the midwest, it’s anyone’s guess as to
whether they will need it or not. A neighbor could have his entire crop wiped out in a matter of
minutes, while another farmer across the road may suffer no damage at all. I remember dad
praying that evening and asking the Lord for guidance and wisdom concerning the insurance
A few days later the man stopped again, and again we were working in the garden. I remember
dad telling him that he had decided not to buy hail insurance, but instead, as a testimony of his
faith, he was going to trust the Lord in this situation. I remember Dad saying that that didn’t
mean he wouldn’t get hit by hail, but it meant, whether his crop was damaged or not damaged,
he was going to trust God to get him through and bless the work of his hands. And I remember
the insurance man’s stunned response. He stammered around a bit then told my dad that he too
was a man of faith. He went to church when he could, he said, and tried to be good, and tried
not to work on Sunday. (But that’s not really being a man of faith by Biblical definition - that is
being a man of works). By the way, by my calculation, Dad had about 55 seasons of planting and harvesting before he “retired,” and he never had hail insurance and he never lost a crop to
hail. “Faith comes by hearing. And hearing by the Word of God,” (Romans 10:17).
The next person in today’s story is a man who was saved as an adult. He had spent the first 50
or so years of his life wrapped up in a religion of works - trying hard to be good enough to
please God. One day, in his search for meaning and purpose in life, he wandered through the
doors of Martintown Community Church. Later, he put his trust in God to save him, (rather than
himself), and he accepted God’s offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle
Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Later, as a testimony of his faith, he asked to be baptized by immersion. We have a baptismal
tank I set up in the church anytime someone wants to be baptized. If it’s summertime, we set it
up outside or we go to a nearby lake or pond. If it’s cold outside, we set it up inside the church.
Before the service, I fill the tank with water and submerse a safety approved electric heater in
the water. One time, I put two heaters in the water. When it was time for the service, the water
was so hot, you couldn’t even put your hand in it. We ended up dumping ice in to bring the
water temperature down. The man being baptized watched from a distance without saying a
word. When it was his turn to be baptized, he stepped into the water and let out a sigh of relief.
Later, he said that when he saw us dumping ice in, not knowing what our tradition was, he
assumed it was that we baptized in ice water. He was prepared for a polar baptism of sorts. He
was never so relieved to find the water warm and comfortable.
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).