October 8, 2023
A few years back, the coach of UCLA’s football team, Pepper Rodgers was in the middle of a
terrible season. It got so bad that it even upset his home life. He recalls: “My dog was my only
friend. I told my wife that a man needs at least two friends… so she bought me another dog.”
Several years ago, an elderly gentleman began attending Martintown Community Church. He
had been out of church for some time – having given up on the possibility that there was a
church out there that he would find satisfactory and would accept him. But one day a friend
invited him to church and he agreed to give us a try and he liked it, so he became a regular on
Sunday morning. Then one day he had a stroke and spent several weeks in the hospital and
subsequently several months recuperating in a nursing home. I visited him faithfully at both of
those institutions, sitting for hours listening to old stories. We shared communion together, read
from the Scriptures and talked of the day when he would get to go home to his farm. The stroke
had affected his memory and his motor skills and he later told me he could not remember any of
my visits. His life was never quite the same after that, but eventually he was released and he
went home, though he never did make it back to church.
After he made it back home, he would call me just about every night at 7:30. He’d come in from
his shop, eat supper, then sit down and ring me up. I heard all about his struggles in life and his
victories. He had a long reputation for being a cantankerous, cranky old man. People in town
knew just how to pull his chain and get him going about politics and religion – it was kind of a
game they played. His family worried that his blood pressure would rise to dangerous levels
during those discussions –and it did.
Late in life, he found the Lord, as they say, and he committed himself to serving Him and
knowing Him better. He searched the Scriptures and studied them relentlessly. He fell in love
with God’s Word and was determined to change his reputation. Those who knew him best saw
that change taking place. He still had the same struggles and ultimately I guess – failures –
though his failures became less frequent. The difference was that now he had the Savior to walk
with him as he went through them – and carry him when he stumbled and needed help getting
up - like the famous poem about the footprints in the sand.
He wanted his family to know the Lord like he had come to know Him, but he had an
overbearing personality about him and they did not readily accept his transformation. Eventually
he curbed his enthusiasm toward them a little, but he never gave up on them.
A few weeks ago he passed away. He had moved away and we hadn’t stayed in touch much.
The funeral was held in a distant town where his family lived. I missed it - and I miss him. I
wonder what he’s up to today. Is he exploring the splendor of heaven? Is he visiting with his
favorite apostle – Paul? Is he celebrating with the angels around the throne of God? I’ll bet
he’s doing all of those things and then some. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for those that love Him,” (1
This gentleman’s life reminds me of another passage of Scripture, found in the writings of the
Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah in 18:6: “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the
Lord: ‘Go down to the potter’s house’…So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him
working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the
potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him…Like clay in the hand of the
potter, so are you in my hand,” (declares the Lord).
The power of the cross of Christ strips off all the illusions of life and lets us see ourselves
exactly as God sees us -- needing Him desperately and finding Him available to us to give
light on our path and to walk with us through life.
“I have had many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed
in God’s hands, that I still possess,” (Martin Luther).
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).