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Pastor's Piece

The Pastor's Piece 3/2/24

By Kevin Cernek, FCFI Chaplain


March 3, 2024


A few years ago I was interested in purchasing a pickup. There was one in town that I drove by several times a week. It was a 1946 Dodge with the double front grill. It sat in a lean-to beside an old, weathered barn. It had been neglected for so long that a tree had grown up through the front bumper and all four tires were flat.


One day I stopped at the house to inquire on the truck’s status. An elderly gentleman and his spaniel/collie mix met me at the door. I stated my business and he invited me in and offered me a cup of coffee. I obliged. He told me how his wife had died several years prior and it was just him and the dog now. I told him who I was and gave a little personal history and we were instant friends.


“What’s the story on that old Dodge pickup out there in the lean-to?” I asked.


His eyes welled up with tears as he told me how it was his son’s pickup. It was his pride and joy and he was planning to restore it from the frame up. But that all ended when he was killed in an automobile accident.


“That was more than 30 years ago. I haven’t touched the truck since. I go out there and look at it sometimes and wonder how life would be different if my son was still around. People stop by all the time wanting to buy it. But it’s not for sale.”


Well, that answered my question before I could ask it. We chatted some more and I left feeling enriched by the encounter. I came to realize that was the only connection he still had to his beloved, departed son. I didn’t want to come between the two of them. The truck remained under the lean-to for several years. Then one day, I noticed divot marks in the yard and saw that the truck was gone. A few months later the old man died. A few months after that they tore his house down and built a shed over the site. Now the whole episode is nothing more than a memory. I don’t know what became of his dog.


I've got another story to tell (similar to one I shared here last week), only there are different people involved. A few weeks ago I shared in this column about how God had opened doors and softened the heart of our friend Ed, who, by the gracious hand of God, became a believer late in his life. I shared how, two days before Ed died, I felt a strong pull to travel to Florida to see him. I wanted to make sure for Ed’s sake that he was indeed saved, and I felt like I needed to know for my own sake as well. God was gracious to us, and my wife and I went down there and spent an afternoon with Ed and his wife. Ed had recently been diagnosed with Leukemia and was only expected to live a few weeks. We enjoyed several hours in Ed’s company that day. I asked him if he was ready to meet Jesus and stand before God. He assured me he was not only ready to meet the Lord - but the sooner the better. There was an unusual aura about him that day. My wife and I both sensed the presence of God in that room as we chatted. I have seen very few people so at ease and ready to meet the Lord in death as Ed was. That night, Ed fell and hit his head, and died. We were so sad to lose him, but God had answered our prayers. Ed was saved. He didn’t have to suffer. And he suddenly woke up in heaven - like every believer before him has experienced and every believer after him will experience. To be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord, (2 Corinthians 5:8).


Ed’s wife wanted to have a memorial service but she didn’t have the energy to put one together, so my wife did it for her. She put together a luncheon and I put together a message to share with the guests, explaining the gospel and explaining Ed’s journey from unbelief to giving his heart to Christ. Seventeen people came. The Lord was good - is good! We had some great conversation afterward. One young neighbor, probably about 30ish, came over to talk to me. He had grown up in Chicago, loved the Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks, Bulls, and White Sox. As a child, he would hang out at Soldier Field on game day. After the game, he would sneak into the press area and as the players left the stadium, he would get their autographs on the official game-day program.


Ed had also grown up in Chicago. They hit it off right away. Our friend told me he had talked to Ed two days before he died and he said he recognized the same peace in Ed that I described in my eulogy of him. He said it was, in his words,  “Ed Energy”.  I told him it was the energy of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that was with Ed those days before he died - and at his death - was there in that room during the memorial service. It’s kind of like the early church in the New Testament - the believers recognized the Spirit’s presence while the unbelievers didn’t know what was happening. But the way I see it - this guy is going to be the next one to get saved. God already has him in His grasp. I continue to stand in awe of God’s presence and activity. He never fails.


(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).