Frank and Roosevelt and the making of bread

Masonboro Island

I am currently taking a week off and spending it at my dads. It’s hot here, but we have been out paddling kayaks in the morning. The wind has been too strong for us to go out into the ocean fishing, so we’ve been paddling kayaks over to Masonboro Island in the morning before the wind rises. There will be no sermon this week as someone is preaching for me. Below is another of my bakery memories:

Former Bakery Stories:

Linda and my beginning at the Bakery

A College Boy in the Bakery

Harvey and Ernest (Oven Operator and Pan Stacker)

Frank and Roosevelt (Bakery, Part 4)

Like Ernest and Harvey, I also inherited Frank and Roosevelt when I began my stint as the night shift supervisor at the bakery. For nearly a year, I came in first at night. I had about thirty minutes to review the day’s orders and set the schedule. Then Roosevelt reported. He took my schedule, we discussed it a few minutes, then he headed back to the mixing room.

Roosevelt’s work

Roosevelt’s first task was to weigh up buckets of ingredients for the various breads we would make in the morning. As the mixer held nearly 3000 pounds of dough, the ingredients he measured were small in quantity and generally fit into a five-gallon pail. This included salt, whey (a milk substitute), enrichment, and preservatives. Sometimes another bucket contained alternative sweetener such as brown sugar, honey, or molasses. After shifting, white flour blew into hopper on top of the mixer, which had a scale to weigh the flour. Gravity then fed the flour to the mixer. Whole wheat, cracked wheat, and rye flour came in 100-pound sacks. Corn syrup, shortening, and fermentation brew (the yeast) were also added mechanically. 

Huge 65 horsepower motors turned the mixer. Water cooling sleeves formed a metal jacket around the bowl which kept the dough cool From what I remember, it took about 10 minutes to mix a batch of dough. Time varied slightly basked on the the strength of the flour and the ingredients used. When ready, Roosevelt tilted the giant bowl, dumping the dough into a trough.

Frank’s work

From the bottom of the trough in front of the mixer, a pump pulled the dough to the make-up area. There, Frank oversaw the operation. A divider cut the dough into six portions of the proper weight. Then it dropped into the rounder, a spinning pot that formed the dough into a ball. After that, the dough balls rose a bit before running through the sheeter that flatted them (like a pizza dough). A machine rolled these flat portions into the shape of the bread. At the end of the process, they dropped into a pan. When things ran smoothly, it was a marvel to watch. For things to smoothly operate, the machines had to be properly set and the dough the right consistency.

Roosevelt’s background

A seaman earlier in his life, Roosevelt had served as a cook on an oil tanker. He once talked about working on a ship hauling oil from North Sea to Philadelphia. In a storm, the ship’s hull split. The ship was in danger of sinking. Two ocean going tugs reached the ship and helped it limp into Jacksonville, Florida. This took eight weeks instead of their normal week-long crossing. During this time, Roosevelt slept with his life vest. Reaching port, the captain told Roosevelt the ship would be ready to sail in about ten weeks, but he decided that his days on the sea were over. Although he still had his seaman papers, he came back home and took a job at the bakery. Roosevelt proclaimed himself to be a Black Muslim, but he wasn’t a radical. He certainly didn’t appear to mind having a white supervisor. Since he also smoked pot and drank alcohol, I wondered how devoted he was to his proclaimed faith. 

Frank’s problems

A dependable worker, Roosevelt made my job easier. Frank wasn’t so dependable and sometimes made my job a living hell. He often came in late. Several times he reported in a condition in which he wasn’t capable of working. This became a problem as it’s hard to find a last-minute replacement at 2 AM. I often had to do his job, too. One night he didn’t show up. When Bobby, who ran the slicers and wrappers, reported three hours later, he found Frank passed out in his car. I sent him home. He cried to the personal manager later that day, who reinstated him. I could only place another written warning in his personal file. 

A few months later, the personal manager regretted his actions. Frank, while on break one morning, had gone over to the slicing and wrapping area. When the bread entered the slicing area, the outside was firm and crust. This allowed it to be sliced easier. It also allowed the loaf to be carved upon. Joking around, Frank scratched with a knife on the bottom of a loaf, “Fuck You.” After showing it around as if it was a joke, he placed the loaf back onto the conveyor. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Our regular bags were red on the bottom. Unfortunately, at the time, we were bagging the bread in a special “private label” bag that had a clear bottom. This bag found itself on a shelf of a store in South Carolina and then in a family’s home. The family didn’t appreciate Frank’s handiwork. A day later, our General Manager received an angry call from the head of the grocery chain. They dropped their contract with us. We lost several thousand dollars a day in sales. The chain reaction began. The personnel manger and I were informed to find out who did it and to fire them on the spot. As Frank had shown this loaf to several employees, it only took a few questions to pin it on him. We called Frank into the office. When confronted by the General Manager, the Plant Manager, the Personal Manager and me, he admitted he had done done the “deed” as “a joke.” Frank was fired. I had the task of walking him to his locker to see that it was cleaned out and to escort him to the door.

Sad endings

I ran into Frank a few years later. Bitter, he complained that we “couldn’t take a joke.” I shook my head and said “whatever,” realizing he hadn’t learned anything from the consequences of his actions. 

I never saw Roosevelt after I left the bakery, but a decade later, I ran into another supervisor from the plant told me the sobering news. Roosevelt had returned to the sea. Sometime later, Roosevelt’s body was found floating next to his ship. He had been stabbed, The assumption was that a drug deal went bad. My heart grieved over his demise. I had enjoyed working with Roosevelt. I can still see him laugh, with a prominent gold tooth in the front of his mouth. 

A Better Way to the Summit: Hebrews 12:14-29

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
May 23, 2021
Hebrews 12:14-29

Sermon recorded on May 21, 2021 at Mayberry Church

Introduction at the Beginning of Worship
Today is Pentecost. It’s a day to recall the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those disciples who gathered in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension. We’re told in Acts that it appeared as if tongues of fire descended and filled the disciples.[1] God’s Spirit set them on fire for Jesus.  The use of fire in scripture is interesting. A fire can be warm and comforting. We enjoy gathering around a fireplace on a winter’s eve or at a campfire in the fall. But fires can also be terrifying and destructive as anyone who has witnessed a housefire or a forest fire will attest. 

Fire is also associated with God. Moses encountered God at the Burning Bush.[2] God led the Israelites out of Egypt by a Pillar of Cloud and Fire.[3] And on Pentecost, God Spirit descended as fire.

Two Candles and Two Flames
Do you know why most Presbyterian Churches have two candles in the front of the sanctuary, generally on the Communion Table? Or why do two flames appear beside the cross on the Presbyterian seal? The flames represent the Old and New Covenant, the flames from which God called Moses and the flames which appeared on Pentecost. Fire can be uncontrollable and somewhat mysterious, which makes it a good symbol for God. 

Two Options for Approaching God
Sooner or later, all of us will be called before God. Today I want you to think about this question. When our time comes, how do we approach the Almighty? As we continue to work through Hebrews, we’ll see there’s two different paths. One is via Sinai, which is a frightful trail to take. It’s like climbing an active volcano. It’s the way of fire. The law is hard and failure to keep it results in harsh consequences. 

Jesus lays out the other path. This path leads us to Zion. It’s the city of God, where, we’re told in Revelation, God personally wipes away our tears.[4]

The author of Hebrews wants us to stick with Jesus! His is the more excellent way.

Read Hebrews 12:14-29

After reading the Scripture
I’m going to take you on another hike, today.[5] In 1995, I did the first of three hikes to complete the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The trail begins at the top of Mount Whitney. It’s the highest point in the continental United States and ends in Yosemite Valley. In the 200 and some miles of trail, a good portion is above tree line. The views are incredible. 

Entering the Sierras
Starting the trail at Whitney means you have an extensive hike and climb to reach the top. Eric and I approached Mount Whitney from the west slope, but we started on the eastern side of the Sierras. Rugged, remote, and somewhat barren describes the eastern slope of the Sierras. We reached the heart of the Sierras through New Army Pass. This involved a terrifying climb. The trail disappeared behind a 100 or so feet wall of snow and ice. We kicked toeholds to climb to the top and pulled out packs up with rope. 

Before we reached solid ground, we had to work our way through the snow that had corniced along the top of the ridge. This created a lip that jutted out from the edge. Somehow, we safely made it to the top. 

The Climb Up the West Side of Mount Whitney
After New Army pass, we picked up the Pacific Crest Trail and hiked north to Crabtree Meadows. This broad plain is just 7 ½ miles and 4,500 feet below Whitney. The next morning, at daybreak, we set out. 

In the summer, on big mountains like this, it’s good to make it to the top early in the day. You never know when you must make a quick retreat in the afternoon as thunderstorms build. The first few miles were gradual, as we made our way around Guitar and Hitchcock Lakes. Then the trail became extremely steep. Soon, frozen snow covered the trail. I put crampons on my boots which provided much needed stability on the icy snow. 

After two hours of climbing, we were at the “Keyhole,” a notch to the south of Whitney, where the trail from the east and the west sides of the mountain join. From there, supposedly, it’s an easy 2 miles to the top. We’d done much of the climbing and only had 700 feet more gain to reach the summit. However, that few things are easy at 14,000 feet. Without conditioning to the elevation, you must go slow, or you’ll be gasping for breath.  

Reaching the Summit
We were at Whitney’s summit in time for lunch. The local rodent population came out to join us. I admit, we felt pretty good about ourselves as we ate, and the rodents begged. Just 20 or so feet to the east of where we sat, the mountain dropped straight off. We could see US 395, which looked like a thread running through Owen’s Valley. Straight out from us rose the Panamint and Amargosa Ranges, which surround Death Valley. We could even see beyond them, and on into Central Nevada. 

Others began to gather as they made their way up to summit as we ate and enjoyed this view. We were all in a celebrative mood, having conquered the mountain. And then it happened. 

Surprise Visitors
I saw the oddest thing. Someone’s head popped up over the edge. Where did he come from, I thought to myself? He pulled himself up on the top, then set out to belay another climber. While few people would call what we did that morning easy, we were in awe. This was nearly impossible.[6]

This couple climbed that morning, a thousand feet or so, vertically. Each carried a rack heavy with hardware: pitons, chocks and other anchoring devices, carabiners, slings, an ice axe, and hundreds of feet of rope. They were serious and had the equipment to help them climb and belay the other on this multi-pitch climb. 

Two Ways to the Summit
Think about these two ways to reach the summit. I’m going to tie it back into our passage this morning. Their experience and our experience, on the same mountain, were drastically different. 

Two Mountains: Sinai and Zion
In the last half of the 12th Chapter of Hebrews, we’re told of two mountains: Sinai and Zion.  There’s quite a contrast between the two. 

Sinai is scary.[7] It’s a place of fear. Even Moses, after all he has seen and done, fears the mountain upon which God gave Israel the law. And why not, this was a mountain to avoid unless God summoned someone up. Even animals were forbidden from approaching the mountain and those who did graze on its slopes were to be stoned. A holy mountain, precautions were taken to keep it sacred. 

But there’s another mountain, Zion. It’s the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, a place of merry angels where all who have been adopted by God joyfully reside. This is the home of Jesus, whose sacrifice enables us to enter this holy place. 

Are They the Same Mountain? 
But perhaps these are the same mountain, just different sides.[8] After all, the God of the Old and New Testaments is the same. The way up to the mountain on the Sinai route is impossible for most people. It’s kind of like the way those climbers summited Whitney. For the rest of us, there is a better way. To reach this summit, we have Jesus as a guide, the one whose blood is superior to Abel’s. He’s the one whose righteousness makes us perfect. 

Hope and Warning
While this passage presents hope to us, it is ultimately a warning not to reject the grace God shown us in his Son. We see this in both the opening and the closing paragraphs. 

The opening, verses 14-17, begins with the counsel for us get along with one another. We’re to root bitterness from our lives and to strive for holiness. How we live is important. The preacher pulls Esau as an example of what we’re not to become. Esau, if you remember, traded his birthright in for a bowl of soup. While it may have filled his stomach in the short-run, he regretted his decision in the long-run. But there was no way to go back. And, when our time is up, there will be way for us to go back. 

The closing paragraph, verses 25-29, frames the other side of the story of the two mountains. We’re reminded of the danger of rejecting Jesus’ offer along with a warning of impending judgment. All will be shaken, we’re told. I imagine a winnowing process, such as used by ancient farmers to separate the kernel of grain from the chaff.[9] Or, like a refining fire, where all impurities are burned away and only that which desirable remains.[10] Both images for God are Biblical, but because Jesus has already purified us, we are called give thanks and to worship God with reverence and awe. 

Follow Jesus, our Guide
Today, take the advice of the Preacher in Hebrews. Follow our guide, Jesus, to Zion, to the place we’ll find eternal rest. And along the way, seek peace with one another, avoid bitterness, and stay on the path blazed by our Savior. Sooner or later, we’ll all be called before God. Instead of going the Sinai route, Jesus’ way is the more excellent route to approach the Almighty. Let’s follow him! Amen.

[1] Acts 2:1-4.

[2] Exodus 3. 

[3] Exodus 13:21.

[4] Revelation 21:4.

[5] Last week, I talked about approaching Katahdin along the Appalachian Trail. See

[6] Of course, this couple made the climb, but few could. However, Paul makes the case of how difficult it is to follow the law. See Romans 3:9-20. The only one who kept the law fully is Jesus. See Romans 5:18.

[7] The author of Hebrews doesn’t name Sinai, but the fearfulness of the holy mountain where Moses was given the law is described in verses 18-21. See the description of Sinai in Exodus 19:16-25.

[8] See Thomas G. Long, Hebrews (Louisville: KY: WJKP, 1997), 140.

[9] Jeremiah 15:7, Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17.

[10] Malachi 3:2-3.

Williston Ninth Grade Center: Ms. Gooden


2021 marks fifty years since cross-town busing began in Wilmington, NC. That spring, those of us in the eighth grade at Roland Grice Junior High, left school thinking about the fall. Having paid our dues as seventh and eighth graders, were ready to be “king of the hill” as ninth graders. However, due to court rulings that few of us understood, things changed that summer. Instead of staying at Roland Grice, we were bused across town to the former African American high school, Williston. Each school, instead of drawing on the neighborhood makeup, was to be 70% white, 30% black, which was the county make-up at the time. Racial tensions were high that fall as 9th graders from three formerly Junior High Schools (Williston—which had become a Jr. High after it stopped being a High School, along with Sunset Park and Roland Grice) were merged into one school. While I am not sure I learned much in class that year, I learned a lot about life. This is one of my stories (which I wrote many years ago and have edited it for this blog post). 

Photo take in 2010 (the blinds in the 2nd story classes look in better shape than they were in 1971).

4th Period

Walking into my fourth period class at Williston Ninth Grade Center, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A new girl sat in a desk to right of me, in the back corner by the window. A blonde, nicely dressed as if trying to impress her classmates on her first day at school, she smiled. Stumbling for words, I introduced myself and welcomed her to my corner. I attempted to impress her by telling a few things that went on in the back of the class. Then Mike, who also sat in the corner, took his place, and joined the conversation. We were in competition, each vying for the new girl’s attention. We tried to outdo the other with our stories. She smiled, even blushed a bit. So intent we were to impress, we didn’t give her time to say anything. The bell rang, the teacher stepped up to the front, class began, and reality sat in.

Our latest test was returned. I quickly took mine and put it under some other papers, shielding it from the new girl. “She looks smart and wouldn’t be impressed with my grade,” I thought. We reviewed the test, and I saw where I’d made my mistakes in calculations. Then she handed out our report cards. Again, I snatched the card quickly and stuck it in a book. The new girl was the one person other than my parents that I didn’t want to see my grades. I promised myself I’d study harder and do all my homework this next term. She deserved such sacrifices.

As the class wound down, I tried to think of a good line to use after the bell, as we herded down the hall to the cafeteria. But a few minutes before the bell, the principal, Mr. Howie, stepped in. He’d never been in this class, and I thought this was strange as we’d been well behaved that day. Politely, our teacher yielded to the floor to Mr. Howie. He informed us that our teacher was being promoted to an assistant principal. At his clue, we clapped. None of us were sure what this meant. By this point in my academic career, assistant principals weren’t on my radar. I was the type of kid who bypassed the assistant’s office and head straight to the big guy’s door. After only six weeks at Williston, Howie and I were on a first name bases.

A new teacher

After giving accolades to our teacher, the principal, as if he was introducing a political candidate, said it gave him great pleasure to introduce our new teacher. Then turning to the back corner, he said, “Ms. Gooden, will you stand.” 

The new girl in the class stood and stepped forward. Mike and I slid under our respective desks. I swear, as she introduced herself to the class, she smirked every time she looked over our way. This was going to be a long year.

Like most schoolboys, there had been a few teachers who, because of their looks or kindness, had encouraged my fantasies. Miss Freeman, my fourth-grade teacher once brought me a Coke. I was a cheap date and impressed. And then there was a seventh-grade math teacher who had ten dresses and I could tell the day of the week by her dress. Of course, two of these dresses were quite short and showed lots of leg. Yet, fantasies about these teachers remained where they belonged, deep in my psyche. I never said anything inappropriate. But now I found myself with a new teacher who was beautiful, and I’d already played my cards to impress her to be mine. 

Ms. Gooden was fresh from college. She was probably twenty-two but could have easily passed for fifteen. I’m sure if she went out for a drink, the waitress would have carded her. And now she knew who, in her class, to keep an eye on. 

Her fiancé

Perhaps to make the point that she was no “Mrs. Robinson,” Ms Gooden fiancé drop by one day. A Marine officer, he stood at attention in the front of the class, decked out in his dress uniform. On his side was an engraved sword that said to me, “hands off my girl.” As he greeted us, he kept looking over at my corner. I’m sure he knew all about us. 

More to come…

I should say that nothing ever happened, but that wouldn’t be quite true. Certainly nothing romantically happened, but there were adventures to come in this fourth period class. I’m sure nothing in Ms. Gooden’s teacher training prepared her to have a class like ours at such a time in history. 

Keep Going: Hebrews 12:1-13

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
May 15, 2021
Hebrews 12:1-13

Sermon taped at Bluemont Church on Friday, May 13, 2021

Thoughts at the beginning of worship: 

We’re on a journey. It’s a familiar Christian metaphor that we’ve seen through our time in the Book of Hebrews. As Christians, we are not settlers on this earth, we’re pilgrims. We’re passing through, longing for the place God prepares. That doesn’t mean this world is all bad; after all God created the world good.[1] But it does mean that we don’t need to be too attached to the present. We must trust and have faith in what God is doing. 

Today, the preacher of this sermon known as the Book of Hebrews, steps up the pace. Instead of a journey like Abraham trotting through the desert, or the Israelites filing out of Egypt, we’re now called to run. The end is near and there’s Jesus and others cheering us on. It is not a time to stumble, not when we’re so close. 

In my Monday’s Bible study on this passage, Jerry Potter, who ran track in high school, said his coach used to always say, “Don’t stop until you’re beyond the tape.” Was he just talking about running, or is this a metaphor for life?  

Read Hebrews 12:1-13 in The Message translation. 

After reading Scripture

The night had been filled with storms. It felt good to have rain at night, when sleeping. It certainly beat walking in the rain. Nonetheless, I kept waking and checking for leaks in my tarp and watching the incredible lightning. This made me sluggish crawling out of my sleeping bag come morning. 

Fog hung over Cloud Pond Lake and in a distance, I could see a moose in knee-deep water, eating. Although the rain had stopped, water continued to drip off the leaves and the ground was soaked. I pulled on my boots and began the morning ritual. 

Morning on the Appalachian Trail

By this point in my hike on the Appalachian Trail, everything had been reduced to a ritual. I put on a pot of water to boil, while I stuff my sleeping bag and rolled by pad. When the water boiled, I fixed a big bowl of oatmeal mixed with powdered milk, nuts, dried fruit, and brown sugar. With the remaining water, I set a tea bag to steep. I then found myself a rock and sat. While eating, I made a few notes in my journal and read a Psalm or two. I was in no hurry to start hiking with everything wet, Yet the trail soon called. 

Seeing the distance goal

It was my second day out of Monson, Maine. I headed deep into the 120-mile wilderness, a section of the Appalachian Trail in which there are no public roads. The next such road is at the base of Mount Katahdin where the trail ends. When I shouldered my pack, the cool air encouraged me to go faster. I climbed Chairback Mountain, making it across the various peaks. And on the fourth peak, I saw Katahdin, off in the distance. My summer of hiking the trail was coming to an end. I could see the goal. I celebrated with a large tootsie roll. 

Over the next day, Katahdin kept appearing. There it was on the peaks of Gulf Hogas Mountain and White Cap Mountain. I wanted to slow down, but at times felt an invisible hand push me forward. Sometimes the feeling was so real, as if someone was pushing against my back. I would turn around, but no one was there. 

I mused in my journal if it was God providing the strength I’d prayed for, to finish the trail. But as I was getting closer, I now wanted to go on forever. I wanted to savor every moment. 

Katahdin from Daisy Lake (taken on August 29, 1987)

The mornings were cold, sometimes below freezing, but by the afternoon, things would warm up and we’d often take a swim in one of the numerous lakes. I pulled a 23-mile day but was sad when I realized it would be the last of my 20-mile days. The days, along with the miles, were getting shorter. Several of us planned to climb Katahdin on August 30. There was no need to rush. 

Lakes block our way

Then the lakes appear. There were no more mountains, just hills, until the end which was on the summit of Katahdin. It seemed we just had lakes to walk around. Katahdin could regularly be seen from the southern shores. The lakes blocked our way to the mountain. We’d travel east or west, around the lake, to its mouth or headwaters, where we’d cross a small stream on a log to get to the other side. A few miles later, as we approached another lake, there would be Katahdin, again. It didn’t look much closer. With the trail running mostly running parallel, back and forth, we were forced to endure a slow approach. 

Hebrews and the Appalachian Trail

As I think back over our journey through the book of Hebrews, I feel a little like I was on the Appalachian Trail back in 1987. Throughout Hebrews, we’ve been invited to journey with others. Whether Abraham or Moses, or the Israelites, movement is a part of life. We’re called to something better. Something pulls us forward. Jesus Christ is like a magnet, drawing us onward. 

Jesus is superior to everything

The preacher of this sermon known as Hebrews has already pointed out Jesus as superior to everything. He tops angels and Moses and the Chief Priest. His sacrifice supersedes all other sacrifices and renders them obsolete. For Hebrews, everything comes back to Jesus. He is our goal, the one we are to follow, the one longed for by the people of faith in Israel, as we saw in the 11th Chapter. 

No longer just a journey, now a race

While the first 11 chapters of Hebrews is about a journey, the author shifts metaphors in the 12th. It’s no longer a leisurely walk, but a race, a marathon.[2] We’re taken into the sports arena where the fans are those who have completed the race. They form a cloud of witnesses, cheering us on, as we make our way toward the throne of God, toward our Savior, the one who perfects our faith. 

As I have said many times as we work our way through this book, the concern raised in Hebrews is that some have or are considering abandoning the faith.[3] The message in this passage is don’t give up. We’re so close. The discipline and the training we’ve endured have brought us to this point. Keep going… 

Those watching us includes Jesus

We’re reminded that Jesus, too, has run this race. He lived among us and suffered with and because of us. While he may have stumbled along the way to the cross,[4] he fulfilled his mission and is now at the right hand of God. We can almost envision the ancient coliseum in which the runners would complete their race. At the top, you had the king and his family. Here, we have God the Father and Jesus the son, watching in excitement as we run our race. 

Doesn’t that get to you, we’re being watched, by God and by those who have gone before us. Not just the ancient ones spoken of in chapter 11, but others from our own lives. Think of those who shared the faith with us and who encouraged us in this life. Maybe it’s our parents and grandparents. Maybe it’s a teacher or a youth leader. They want us to hang in there. They want us to remain faithful and finish the race. 


In the middle part of our reading, starting with verse 4, it appears as if the author moves off the race image, but not really. He brings up our trials and troubles and reminds us that we’re not the first or the only one to face such trials. Some had even worse. Furthermore, there are times we may wonder about the discipline we’ve had to endure. 

Does God not like us, we question? But we’re reminded that if a parent doesn’t discipline a child, there is something wrong. The same is true with God.

Did you parents ever say right before a punishment, “This is going to hurt me more than you?” Discipline isn’t fun for either party, but Hebrews reminds us that it’s part of our training. If a runner lacks discipline, he probably lacks metals, too. We must learn right and wrong, what is good and beautiful along with what is bad and ugly. Furthermore, we are to learn what God has done for us. 

Telling the story as preparation

In the Old Testament, after the Exodus, Israel is repeatedly told to teach the story to their children. It was the purpose behind the Passover celebration. The same is true for our remembering of Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter. It’s all part of our training and preparation for the race of life.

The race to the top

The morning of August 30th came quickly. Having camped the previous night at the base of Mount Katahdin, I was up before dawn. I laced my boots over my sore feet. Even though calloused after months of hiking, those dogs still hurt.[5] I went through my routine one more time, firing up my stove in the as dawn broke. 

After breakfast, I started discarding that which I did not need in my pack. I had spent my last night on the trail; this night I would be in a hotel. Like a runner discarding anything that would him or her back, I shed all the weight I could. With a light pack, I hit the trail. Nothing could hold me back now. 

That’s the message of Hebrews. Keep going. Shed anything that holds you back. Keep moving closer and closer to Jesus. God is not some angry judge in the sky just waiting for the opportunity to smack us down. God, along with all the others, are cheering us on. Keep going. 

As Jerry Potter’s track coach used to tell him, “Don’t stop running until you are through the tape.” And, I will add, “keep your eyes on Jesus.”  Amen. 

[1] The world itself longs for renewal, Paul tells us in Romans 8:18-25. 

[2] Thomas Long, Hebrews (Louisville, KY: WJKP. ), 

[3] We first saw this concern in Hebrews 2:1-4. 

[4] The idea that Jesus stumbled comes from Simon of Cyrene being pressed to take Jesus’ cross. See Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26.

[5] Dogs were trail slang for feet. 

Be a Vehicle for Something Greater than Yourself

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
Hebrews 11:23-40
May 8, 2021

The recording was made on May 7 at Mayberry Church.

Thoughts at the beginning of worship

For the past two weeks, I have been slowly reading Garrison Keillor’s memoir, That Time of the Year. I savor a chapter or two each night before bed. Keillor often gives praise for those who helped him along the way. There’s a long litany of such folks: his mother, aunts, teachers, even preachers in the separate Brethren Church of his youth. It’s a good practice for us to think of those who helped us along the way. On Mother’s Day, we obviously think about moms. If they’re alive, we should thank our mothers. But there are often others, too, that serve in such capacity, that deserve our thanks.

For one his High School drama coaches, Keillor writes:

“Miss Person gave me encouragement, which I was desperate for… Her gift was to help self-conscious youngsters step out of the bubble. ‘It’s not about you. It’s about the material. Work on the material. Don’t make the performance be about you. Let yourself be a vehicle for something greater than yourself.’”[1]

Be a vehicle for something greater than yourself

“Let yourself be a vehicle for something greater than yourself.” Good advice. And isn’t this a lesson we’ve seen lived out in the lives of faith as recorded in the 11th Chapter of Hebrews? Those who dare to trust and follow God become a vehicle for something greater than themselves. Abraham and Sarah, an old couple, started a family and gave the world an insight into the covenant relationship we can enjoy with God. 

Today, as we look at the end of Hebrews 11, we’ll learn about Moses and others, all of whom are vehicles for something greater. May we also strive to be such a vehicle.

Read Hebrews 11:23-40

After the scripture

I recall a bumper stick from back in the 80s. It read, “The one who dies with the most wins.” Later in that decade, the movie Wall Street came out. It was to be a movie that showed the dangers of excess. In it, the movie’s villain, in a speech, makes the statement, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”[2] It was shorted to “Greed is good,” and became the motto for the decade. None of this expresses a Christian truth, but it’s an age-old idolatry we battle.

As Christians, our goal can never just be to achieve as much as possible in this life. Two reasons. First, we know that everything we have or might earn belongs to God.[3] And second, we, of all people, know that God has something better instore for us. This is a message found throughout Hebrews. We are called to make decisions in our lives based on such knowledge. 

Moses and his parents

Today, we continue through this lengthy list of heroes of the faith found in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. We start with Moses. But the author here, doesn’t just point out Moses’ faith. Moses family risked their lives to go against the order of Pharoah and to save their firstborn boy. They did this, even though it meant letting him go and allowing him to be claimed by Pharoah’s sister.[4] Today’s Mother’s Day, and we can only imagine the pain in Moses’ mother’s heart as she watched her son float down the Nile in a basket. She provided him with a chance to live. But think of the faith required. 

And then there is Moses himself. He chose the hard path. He was willing to stand up for those who were slaves, those who had no standing, those who were expendable. This didn’t help him, at least not financially. He had to abandon the wealth of his adopted family and flee Egypt. And when he came back to lead the Hebrew people out of bondage, he wasn’t well liked by those among whom he had lived. Think of his sacrifice, what he gave up, because he had faith. Think of those who risk positions of power or prestige to stand up for what they believe is the truth or justice. We witness true faith when someone places God first, above all else.

Dorrigo Evans: Giving up what you desire

Those of you who have gotten to know me know that I tend to read 3-4 books at a time. They are always in different genre which allows me to keep them apart. One of the books is always an unabridged audible reading. Currently, the book I listen to in the car and on walks is Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The story is about Dorrigo Evans, who is a physician within the Australian army. Captured in Java, early in World War 2, his fate is a POW camp in Thailand. There, they are assigned to the building of the Burma Railroad. 

The bridge over the River Kwai (which was only a small part of the Burma Railroad). My photo, taken in 2011.

The history of the Burma railroad is horrific. The author notes that some account puts the death toll over 200,000 men. Think of it this way: that’s more people than the number of words in his 350-page book. 

When the commander of their unit dies, Dorrigo becomes the top-ranking officer. He tries to do what he can to help those under his command. At one point, some of the men secretly kill and butcher a small cow they find wandering lost. The men have been dying for solid food. The cooks present their commander with a slice of the best, a steak. He and his men have been consuming mostly grass soup with a little rice. He finds the steak so tempting but knows it would be a bad example. There is not enough meat to go around for everyone. So, instead of accepting this gift, he insists the cooks take the steak to the hospital and give it to the men there. His actions earn him praise, but oh did he want that steak.[5]

Negative consequences of doing what is right

Doing what is right often has negative consequences. Instead of enjoying life in the palace, Moses found himself living the rest of his life in a tent in the wilderness. Instead of enjoying a nice slice of beef, Dorrigo continues to have hunger pain. However, is the right action to satisfy our bodies for the moment, or to do what can to help others?


Rahab is another of our characters. She might not be the woman of the Bible who comes to mind on Mother’s Day. The author of Hebrews doesn’t mince words. We’re reminded of her occupation: prostitution. Interestingly, other contemporary Jewish writings in the first century avoided her occupation. Instead, they praised her for hospitality to the Hebrew spies.[6]

We learn two things about Rahab in this passage. First, she heard how God had helped the Hebrew people during the Exodus. She believed this God was for real. So, she uses her knowledge to bargain to save her entire family. Her parents and siblings and their family benefit from her faith. Unlike many of these examples, Rahab received her promise immediately, by saving her family. But she also becomes enshrined in the Hebrew hall of fame. She is an ancestor of both King David and Jesus.[7]

How many of us have benefitted from the faith of another? Especially from the faith of our mothers, or in this case, the mother benefitting from the faith of the wayward daughter? 

Faith of the Hebrew people

The Book of Hebrews credits the people following Moses with faith as they cross through the sea and as the walls of Jericho fall. Interestingly, however, he doesn’t mention Joshua. If you remember, Joshua took over after Moses and was the one who led them to victory in the conquest of Canaan. This oversight may have been intentional. Hebrews doesn’t want us to focus on an earthly “Promised Land,” where the people found “rest.” Instead, our focus is to be on our true homeland, the place God has in store for us.[8]

Other examples

After Rahab, the preacher of Hebrews cites a litany of Old Testament heroes. Unfortunately, the rhetorical beauty of his litany in Greek gets lost in translation.[9] Poetry is hard to translate. Three sets of names mentioned: those who accomplished through faith, those who overcome obstacles by faith, and those who endured suffering by faith.[10]

The names include four judges, one king, and illusions to many of the prophets. While the prophets, except for Samuel, are not named, two stand out. These are Elijah and Elisha. Both credited with resurrecting the sons of widows. These resurrection accounts are mentioned here.[11]

As our author winds up his litany of heroes with a list of the horrific experiences some have faced because of their faith. When we think we’ve been persecuted, perhaps we should review this list. From mocking and floggings, to being stoning or sawing, while others flee to the deserts and mountains, people of faith have endured much. Yet, as we’re told at the end of the chapter, they did not receive the promise because God has something even better. At the end, seen throughout Hebrews, the author hints to what’s next. Jesus, the perfecter of our faith, has suffered, too. 

Ready to run the race

With all these names and examples of faith, the preacher of Hebrews wants us to be ready to run the race, which we’ll get into next week. But until then, think about what we might do if we trust in God and are willing to step out of our comfort zones. What might God do through us? Our lives are never about ourselves. As people of faith, we’re to be a vehicle in which God can make us be more than ourselves. Amen. 

[1] Garrison Keillor, That Time of Year: A Minnesota Life (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2020), 98. 

[2] The villain, Gordon Gekko, is played by Michael Douglas. The movie came out in 1987.

[3] Psalm 24:1.

[4] Exodus 2:1-10.

[5] While this is an example of Dorriogo doing the right thing, the novel does point out both sides of his life. He is both a flawed and noble man. See Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Long North (Random House, 2013. This story comes about 4 hours into the book.  

[6]Josephus identifies her as an innkeeper, and in the 1st Century rabbinical tradition, she was praised for her hospitality. See Luke Timothy Johnson, Hebrews: A Commentary (Louisville, KY: WJK, 2006), 304.  

[7] See Matthew 1:5.

[8] Johnson, 303. 

[9] Johnson, 305. 

[10] Johnson, 306-309.

[11] See 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:25-37. 

Harvey and Ernest in the Bakery

Series introduction

In the summer of 1976, I began working at Fox Holsum Bakery in Wilmington, NC. I had just finished my first year of college. For the summer, I had a job traying bread. At the end of the summer, as I wrote about last week, the plant manager asked if I would be interested in continuing to work on second shift. This allowed me to work full time, while also attending college. During my senior year of college, they promoted me to supervision. I continued with the banker for almost two years after graduation, when I decided to take a major pay cut and go to work for the Boy Scouts of America. 

The bakery no longer exists even though the building and the flour silos along the railroad tracks were still standing a few years ago when I rode by the plant. I hope to rework a number of essays I’ve written about some of the characters I knew during this period of time. Over the next few months, as I work on them, I will post them here. 

Story 1: Coming of age in the bakery
Story 2: A college boy in the bakery

Harvey and Ernest

I inherited Harvey and Ernest a few days after I graduated from college. With four years of college under my belt and a philosophy degree to hang on the wall, I decided not to even look for other employment. Of course, now that I’d graduated from college, my schedule was more flexible. When they recruited me to stay on after that first summer, they promised to keep me on second shift so that I’d be able to attend school in the mornings. This worked well, but once I’d graduated, they wanted me on the night shift. I had to pay my dues. Harvey was my oven operator and Ernest ran the pan-stackers. Although they were as different as night and day, I liked both of them. 

Ernest also went by “Rerun” This was based on the character played by Fred Berry on the popular 70s TV show, “What’s Happening.” Both Ernest and Berry were comical, overweight, and Africa-American. Harvey was a skinny, aging, white-guy, clueless about the world. As their 22-year-old supervisor, I was almost as clueless as Harvey.

A night in the bakery

My day began around mid-night, when I came in the plant and spent the first hour developing schedules. Then the first part of my shift reported. In the mixing room was Roosevelt on the mixers and Frank running the make-up equipment that took the dough, shaped it, and placed it into pans. Ernest and Harvey worked in the background, which comprised about half the plant with just the two of them. Ernest ran the panstackers, while Harvey oversaw the operation of the oven and proof box, each the size of a house. 

The machinery Ernest managed placed the pans on the conveyor that transported them into the mixing area. Havery’s first hour was more laidback. He turned on the steam into the proof box and lighted the oven’s burners (the oven had about forty burners in it). 

For the next three hours, it was just the five of us. Roosevelt would start mixing the dough while Frank set up the equipment. In the back room, Ernest kept count of the number of pans needed for each size and type of bread. When the first dough dumped from the mixer (which had a capacity of 2400 pounds), the operation started. The plant was mostly automatic. A pump drew the dough out of the trough and into the divider, that cut the dough into loaf sizes. From there, the rounder snapped the dough into a ball. Then, running through sheeters and moulders, to create a loaf. The dough dropped into a pan and conveyed over to the proof box.

This automation continued as a conveyor ran the pans from the proof box to the oven, then out of the oven and through a depanner. From there the bread went through a cooler, while the pans returned to the mixing area for more dough. 

At four in the morning, Bobby and his crew came in to run the slicers and baggers. Timing was everything. A few minutes after four, bread that had been cooled enough to be sliced, marched on the conveyors out of the cooler and toward the slicers. Afterwards, the bread was stuffed into bags. If all ran well, the first-time human hands touched the product was when the wrapped loaves were placed on trays and sent to the shipping department. We could produce 5000+ pound loaves or 4200-pound-and-a-half loaves of bread an hour. 

Ernest sleeping on the job

The one similarity Ernest and Harvey shared was solitude. For the most part, they wanted to do their job and be left alone except for an occasional break to smoke a cigarette. They were both good at what they did. Once Ernest had things running smoothly, he’d lean against the machinery and rest. From then on, his role was to clear jams and troubleshoot problems. I knew he’d developed the skill of sleeping upright against the machines. Any change in vibration would immediately wake him. He’d fix the problem and then return to his nap.

Of course, Ernest insisted he never slept. I wasn’t troubled by it for I knew Ernest always got his job done. But for some reason, I also felt I had a point to prove. One morning, while he was napping and the machines humming smoothly, I found a piece of twine and some fabric and fashioned a tail, much like you make for a kite. I tied it to a belt loop on the back of his pants. Ernest snoozed. Once he woke, he couldn’t see it; he was too big. Over the next several hours, quite folks in the plant all made a trip back to his area to see his “tail.” 

Ernest wasn’t too happy with me when I asked if he grew the tail while sleeping on the job. Thinking back, it wasn’t a very nice joke. It was also dangerous considering the equipment we worked with. In time he forgave me, and I stopped hounding him about sleeping.

The education of Harvey

Harvey worked in the most isolated part of the plant. Ernest was located near the receiving docks, so he’d often see people walking by. Few people walked by Harvey’s workstation. Except for the supervisor or a mechanic, one either wanted to see him, were lost, or were trying to hide. Harvey oversaw the most automotive section in the plant. As I wrote in the last piece, when things worked properly, it was a breeze. When something went wrong, such as a jam in the oven, Harvey just didn’t call for help. He hit a button. This set off a horn heard throughout the bakery, summoning mechanics, and me to drop whatever we were doing and run back to the oven. A major malfunction at that point in production meant we had only a couple of minutes to get things going before losing thousands of loaves of bread. Luckily, things kept humming most of the time.

The mechanics often spent time with Harvey, making minor adjustments, watching to make sure things were running okay, and at times, avoiding other work. A couple mechanics took it upon themselves to educate Harvey, something that nearly six decades of life had failed to do. Pornographic magazines, often very graphic, were utilized as textbooks. I was spared their instruction, being in management, but I always knew when Harvey had received a lesson. He’d be beside himself and would start babbling to me about it. “You wouldn’t believe what that girl was doing,” he’d say. “Why would someone do that,” he asked? Although I don’t think he was a religious man, the general depravity of the human race greatly troubled Harvey.

Working on Ernest’s Cadillac

Another memory I have of Harvey and Ernest happened early one morning. We’d been having trouble with people breaking into cars parked outside the plant, especially older vehicles which didn’t have hood latches inside the car. On these vehicles, the thieves didn’t have to get into the car to pop the hood and steal the battery. Ernest drove a big old dark-green Cadillac. To keep it safe, he’d park on the street, right next to the loading dock and under a streetlight. This morning, about 1 AM, as I was going over the schedule with Ernest, telling him how many of what type of pans we’d need, Harvey went out on the loading dock for a smoke. When he returned, he asked Ernest, without sensing anything wrong, “Who’s working on your car this time of night?” Ernest took off out the door like a locomotive, cussing and screaming. The guys stealing his battery dropped their tools and took off. Harvey had no clue; Ernest gained a pair of pliers and a wrench.

I talked to the police. They told me to mark the batteries. A battery with identifying mark indicating its owner made it difficult to be sold. Salvage yards had police to check such batteries. I purchased an engraver and offered to write the license plate numbers on top of my employees’ car batteries. Word about this quickly spread around the neighborhood. I don’t remember any more batteries stolen afterwards.

Thinking back, 40 years later

I worked the night shift for a year and would stay at the bakery for another year after that. I still think about those guys and wonder whatever happened to Ernest and Harvey.

Hebrews 11:8-22, Stepping Out in Faith

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
May 2, 2021
Hebrews 11:8-22

Sermon recorded on Friday, April 30, 2021 at Bluemont Church

Introduction at the beginning of worship: 

Again, this week, we’re talking about faith. Too often, we think of faith meaning we have arrived. It’s as if faith is our purpose.[1] However, the definition of faith we read last week, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” doesn’t support such an idea. Having faith is not the end, it’s the beginning. It’s what led Abraham to leave his home at an old age. 

Sadly, however, many people believe that faith is the end all.[2] The same is true with the idea of being “born again,” which Jesus’ speaks of in John 3. If someone can just be born again, we think, they have it all together, as if they’ve arrived. 

Developing faith is a process

Birth isn’t something we achieve and then is quickly over. In fact, if you think about it, we don’t achieve birth. It takes parents and a nine-month gestation period of which we don’t have any control. And once we come into the world as a child, we’re helpless. We can’t move or feed ourselves. Birth is just the beginning of a growth process, which makes it a perfect metaphor for a life of faith. 

Likewise, faith is a growth process as we step out of our comfort zones. Faith requires movement as we grow into a trusting relationship with God. We can look back, as the author of Hebrews does, to see how others trusted God. 

Looking back to see God’s guidance

We can also look back into our lives and see where God had been present when we were in need. Such knowledge of God’s work in the past informs our faith. And as we grow in faith, we also grow as disciples. And that’s what the church is to be about, making disciples.[3]

Like the early church, we’re called to live with confidence that God has things under control. We’re not to be in a hurry. Making disciples is not done in an instant. Helping God bring forth the kingdom takes more than a few volunteer hours. We’re talking about investments of lifetimes of people who, trusting and working with the Holy Spirit, help others mature as Christians.[4] We need to remember that we’re just vessels who need to be open to the Spirit, as we live as disciples. 

Read Hebrews 11:8-22

After the reading of scripture

Photo by Ruud Luijten on Unsplash

I tend not to be superstitious and place little trust in premonitions. However, on my first solo cross-country trip, something happened. I still find it strange. I entered unfamiliar territory, as I left Missouri and crossed into Kansas on I-70. I had flown over the country several times before this trip, but the vast lands between Missouri and the West Coast were unfamiliar. 

Around mid-day, I drove up on a familiar look car, going slightly below the speed limit. This was in 1988. The car was two-toned ‘55 Buick. A red body, a black roof, and lots of shiny chrome. I gave my turn signal and moved into the left lane to pass. When I pulled beside the car, I looked over. Not only was this car identical to the first car I remember my parents owning, but the driver also looked eerily familiar. 

He had dark black hair, black frame glasses, and wore a white t-shirt and a beige hard-shelled jungle hat. His left arm hung out of the rolled down window. He saw me taking a second look, nodded, and smiled. 

The man looked just like my dad when he was younger. My dad wore the same style hat when we fished at Dunk’s pond.[5] He had the same glasses. I wonder what had happen to that car which my dad had traded in 25 or so years before. As I sped on down the highway, I kept glancing into my rear-view mirror, thinking about my dad and wondering about this man who could have been his twin. 

A bit later, I pulled off the freeway, into the small town of Paxico. Main Street consisted of a few stores and buildings on the northside of the road. The Southern Pacific tracks paralleled Main to the south, between the town and the freeway. There was a small bar and grill, where I retreated from the intense sun and heat. It was dark and cool inside. I ate a burger and listened in to farmers in overalls at the bar, drinking a beer and expressing their hope they’d soon get some rain. Thirty minutes later, I was back on the road. 

In the distance, huge thunderheads, reminiscence of the cowboy song, “Ghost Riders of the Sky” loomed. Soon, lightning streak across the sky and even inside an airconditioned car, I could tell the outside temperature dropping. Then came the wind and I had to hold tight to wheel. Next, I entered the darkness, which came with pounding rain and hail. I could barely hear the radio. I slowed down.

It was over, as quickly as it started. The highway stretched into the west and steam rose from the wet asphalt. And out of that haze, I saw the car again, that ’55 Buick. I would pass him several more times over that afternoon and again the next morning, before I turned north to pick up I-80 for the drive across Wyoming. 

We are never alone

Unlike Abraham, I knew my destination. I was heading first to Idaho, where I would spend the summer running a camp, then on to Virginia City, Nevada for a year internship. But it was a bit unnerving for I was in a strange country and I knew no one. Yet, that ’55 Buick, whose driver could have been my dad, reminded me that I really wasn’t alone. No, my father was not with me, but our Father in heaven was there. 

Heading out without a destination

I like the Fredrick Buechner quote I included in this week’s bulletin. “Faith is not being sure of where you’re going, but going away.”[6]That’s Abraham, heading westward, through the desert. And, in a way, it was me, as I went to seminary and then accepted an internship out West, in a strange land where, at first, I felt as if I was a foreigner. 

Abraham and his descendants 

Our passage for today speaks of faith as a journey as we look back into the past. The Preacher of Hebrews is rather fond of Abraham. This is the fourth time he’s made an appearance in this sermon known as the Epistle to the Hebrews.[7] But it’s not just about Abraham, for he brings in his wife, Sarah, and his son, two of his grandsons, and one of his great-grandsons. Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph are mentioned. 

God made a promise to these ancestors of our faith, but none of them saw the promise fulfilled. They, like us, are transients in the world, knowing that the true home for which they long is that city God prepares…. 

Growth by steps

The thing we learn about all of them is how they grew in faith. Abraham took one step of faith leaving his home to become a Bedouin, wandering around the ancient Near East. He took a second step of faith when he refused to hold back anything required by God. This including Isaac, the only son of Sarah and the heir of the promise.[8]

Each of the patriarchs showed faith by extending their blessing to their children. Joseph, the last we hear of, displays faith by requesting his bones be taken out of Egypt and buried in the Promised Land. That wouldn’t be for another four hundred years. Speaking of faith being of that we cannot see… 

We are just passing through

Like our ancient ancestors, we, too, are only passing through this life. Yet, we’re to have faith in what God is doing in our world. It’s easy to think that things are going downhill, but we, as followers of Jesus, lay our hope, not in the ways of the world, but in the ways of God. 

Where is God working today?

Where do we see God working the world today? While most congregations and denominations in America are declining, the church is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa and Asia. Perhaps, we have too long thought of ourselves as God’s gift to the world, that we have forgotten that God’s ways are not ours.

The Man Who Moved a Mountain

I recently had a conversation with Stewart, your former minister. We discussed the book about his grandfather, The Man Who Moved a Mountain. Stewart told of how people, after reading the book, are often amazed at his Grandfather. Yes, God did some great work through him, but Stewart felt his grandfather would be overwhelmed by the praise. 

One person, impressed by his Grandfather’s work, asked if he knew how many people his Grandfather saved. They were surprised Stewart said he could answer that question. They were even more surprise by his answer. None! He didn’t save anyone. Salvation is from God, through Jesus Christ, not from any of us.  

Yes, God can work through us, as he did through Bob Childress, to help bring people into a relationship with Jesus. But salvation is a gift that can only come from God.

Our hope and stepping out in faith

As followers of Jesus, we place our hope in the work he is doing in the world. That should make us optimistic, but also humble. We’re called to step out in faith. In a sense, it can be a lonely journey. But we place Jesus first, knowing we are never alone. Our hope is in the overflowing love of God.[9] Like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, we are called to step out in faith, trusting God. And there’s no telling what God might do through us. Amen.  

[1] While faith is important in living out our purpose, we created as the opening question of the Westminster Catechism describes, to “glorify and enjoy God forever.”

[2] This idea came from the Rev. Peter Lockhart, “Seeking a Better County,” a sermon on Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16.

[3] See Matthew 28:16-20.

[4] Joseph D. Small, Flawed Church, Faithful God: A Reformed Ecclesiology for the Real World (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018),, 181

[5] Dunk was my great-uncle (my paternal grandmother’s brother), whose pond was about a half mile from our home.

[6] Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 25. 

[7] See Hebrews 2:16, 6:13, and 7:6.

[8] Interestingly, Hebrews mentions Isaac as Abraham’s only son, while in Genesis we learn of Ishmael. Compare Hebrews 11:17 with Genesis 16. Of course, Ishmael was not the son of Sarah, but her servant, Hagar. 

[9] See Small, 214