The Journey: and the Culvert Pipe 3-25-2021
By Dean FosterMarch 25, 2021
The Journey: and the Culvert Pipe
By Dean Foster
5Thomas said to him, "Lord we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really know me; you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
The following is a gospel story. Jesus, came to us some twenty centuries ago and said, "Come, follow me."
Welcome to the Journey.
Driving west on the state route one Monday afternoon pastor Dave saw Andy out near the end of the driveway with a spade shovel. More than enough reason to pull over to see what his old friend was up to. Andy was still studying the spread of the limestone when Dave got out of the car and walked toward him. Dave asked, "Don't ya' think it's kind of a hot to be out digging holes in your driveway?"
Left hand on the shovel, Andy shaded his eyes with the right hand to look up and without missing a beat he grinned, "You didn't drive clear out here just to make sure I was having a bad day did you Dave? You can do that over the phone." Dave smiled as he put one hand on Andy's strong shoulders, "What's up here buddy? Looks like you're into something."
Andy motioned down at the drive, "It's this pipe the township put under the end of the driveway a while back. You know, the culvert. Didn't use to need one when there were fields and pasture all around here to take up the water. When the Scottie boys down the south road sold about all of their land and old Pete across from me sold his whole place, developers bought it all up. Had to dig the ditches out so they could build houses everywhere."
Dave knew how Andy missed the time back when it was mostly all farms around that part of the county. Not that Andy hadn't sold off some land himself when the price was up, enough to help his sons get a good start out on their own. The retired farmer knew how things worked, still, it was hard for him to watch yesterday slip away.
"Look at this," Andy showed the pastor the pipe they put in back when they dug the ditches wasn't galvanized, just plain ribbed steel pipe. Andy said, "I'm not even sure they are still allowed to use plain steel like that anymore."
He was pretty sure it had to be galvanized these days. He said, "Galvanized so it don't rust so quick the way this one did. Both ends are rusting out, and probably the inside too."
Dave took the shovel and went down as if he wanted a better look, the earth was pushing the rusting ends of the pipe closed. He dug them both out, bent them open. Andy said he didn't have to do that; he was going to do it himself. He asked him to knock off some of the very rusty useless end parts. Dave did that too.
Andy showed Dave how the driveway above the pipe felt a little "spongy," which is why he thought the top of the pipe might be rusting out. Dave agreed. He was glad he stopped and happy to be there talking with Andy about the pipe under the end of the driveway. It sounded like what might not seem like a big deal to some people, at the same time summarized for Andy the way life changes, and who needs that?
About that time Andy's wife Cynthia came out and joined the two of them standing in the yard, shaded by the house. Andy was explaining that a new culvert pipe was more than they could afford right now, "Cleaning it out like this will have to do until both my boys can get down here for a visit at the same time. With their help I can get a new one and the three of us can put it in."
Cynthia rolled her eyes when she looked at Dave to hand him the glass of lemonade she had brought out, before turning to her husband. Andy thanked Dave for his help again, and Dave prayed with them before he left.
As he drove down the state route, the Holy Spirit in Dave caused him to reflect on the prayer he had just shared. He'd spoken with God of the way we feel challenged in life by situations large and small. And how whatever we face we need help remembering that the Lord wants to hear from us about it. Dave prayed that God would hear their prayer for help in this dilemma about the culvert pipe they were bringing it to him. Just the way he wants us to bring all of our cares and troubles, whatever joy we find to praise him for in life. The Lord our God wants more than anything for us to share it with him. Yes, he already knows, he is Almighty God. That is the nature of the relationship he wants with each of us though, an intimate friendship that begins with us choosing to believe in and share our lives with him this way.
Then, as he was driving, Dave began to wonder when Andy's two son's would be able to get down to visit him from their jobs in other states. Even if they could, was the job of replacing that culvert pipe something two middle age men and their retired father were going to be able to do. Dave remembered Cynthia rolling her eyes with her warm, loving smile.
The Holy Spirit in Dave was working the way the Spirit often does. With Andy and a few others in mind, Dave was imagining what God might do. Dave had been on the way home for a while before going back to his office at the church to work until the men's Bible study that night. He went straight to his office instead; he went in to make a few phone calls. He made the calls knowing it was the Spirit telling him to do so. You see, Dave knows that with God all things are possible. The Holy Spirit loves that. The Spirit in Dave has given him a thirst for the spectacle of what only God can do. Which is why Dave spent the afternoon talking to a few people, listening to the Spirit, doing a little planning, and getting ready for the six-thirty men's Bible Study.
A little after six the Scottie brothers always arrived early. Jim made the coffee and John always came to the office to say, "Well Dave, about time for the Bible meeting."
Soon the others would start to arrive. Almost without fail, one of their wives would send homemade bakery, cookies or something for all of them to enjoy. The men would settle into their same places at the familiar "round table," as it was lovingly referred to. The thick, solid oak six-foot diameter table had seen more than its share of Sunday school classes and bake sales. Before its polyethene finish to its wood grain it had everything you can imagine spilled on or wiped off of it, so it still remained the best place for coffee, council meetings, study and conversation. Tom always arrived last because he didn't close his hardware store until a little after six. Five of them usually, plus the pastor made a good size discussion group for the study and men's fellowship.
That night after Dave opened with prayer. Then he asked them all to turn to Matthew 5 in their Bibles. Then he skipped the first verses of the Beatitudes and went straight to the "Salt and Light."
Dave said, "This is what Jesus taught his disciples as they sat around him on the side of a mountain:"
Then he read to them:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
When he finished reading pastor Dave paused to see if any of the men would say anything. They didn't so he explained, "The reason I read that was so to remind us all of who we are called to be here in the world. Because I want to talk about how the church lets its light shine to the community. About how well do we do it now? And about something that happened to me today that gave me an idea."
None of the men said anything for the longest time.
Dave waited. Then he asked, "Come on somebody knows a way that the church reaches out to the community?"
Jim took the bait, "Well there is the pancake breakfasts that we put on, those are open to the community. They respond to those pretty well."
Someone else added, "And those are by good will offering not a set price so people don't think of it as a fundraiser. It is as good neighbors that we do it."
Then Tom brought up the Turkey Dinners that they were known for all around there. People love coming every year to those.
Someone else said, "Don't forget about the hand-made pierogi dinners and the extra ones the ladies make and sell too. People know that's a lot of work. They know how much the church cares about them."
The "outreach" is pretty good the men seemed to think.
Dave had mostly listened once the men started talking. He quietly agreed with them that the things the church was doing were a benefit to the community. Then he said, "What if we did something that almost no one else knew about? You know, something to help someone just because we are God's church and the Holy Spirit sends us to be salt and light to the world."
It was quiet for a moment or two or three. Then one of the men at the round table said, "What do you mean by that?"
Dave explained that they all knew Andy, and that Andy could use the church's help with a problem he had. As Dave described what was going on at the end of Andy's driveway, Tom said he didn't know if the five of them would be able to help that much because of the expense and the amount of work it was going to be. Dave told him not to worry about those things, "God will take care of that."
They talked more about what they might do and Dave wasn't surprised that the Spirit in each of the men, fired them up so to speak. The "Bible Meeting" that usually lasted until about seven thirty didn't end until almost eight thirty. Being Salt and Light does that to believers.
The Holy Spirit handles the details in these experiences. They start out and seem to be of men and women and then it all gets Spirit driven. The timing is perfect, the flow is perfect and Saturday morning comes before you know it. Dave arrived at Andy's place first about nine, and as expected Andy was already outside waiting for him. They weren't there long before other men arrived in cars and pickups and SUVs. They brought pick axes, shovels, pry bars, a maddox. There must have been eight or nine guys out there from different churches. Andy asked Dave about that but Dave said, "Doesn't matter Andy, that is the church working on your driveway my friend."
At one point Dave did what he tries to do at these things, stepped back to just listen and to see the spectacle of what only God can do.
In those few minutes, he saw one guy break the head off of his shovel. The other guys laughed at him a little then one of them gave him an extra one he had in his truck and said, "Keep it, I just got a new one anyway."
Dave heard the laughter of men trying to pry the rusty culvert pipe out of the dug-out end of the driveway. They laughed because some said it needed to be dug out more and some said it didn't; it was just too rusty. Dave saw Andy watching from the yard, smiling and laughing, pointing, as happy as he had seen him in years.
Then Dave saw the flatbed truck from the big Do-it-yourself hardware store drive up out front. Tied down on back was a brand new twelve foot long, ten-inch wide culvert pipe. Just as galvanized as it could be. After talking to the pastor earlier in the week the store was also donating seven one hundred-pound bags of limestone to the church project at that address.
Dave heard the whoops and yelling of the men when they saw the new pipe show up. He saw many of them go to help unload it. Some just laughing as they finished cleaning out the place to put it. All of them enjoyed working together, helping a friend, for some a new friend.
One guy went to get the large thermos and ice out of his truck and carried it over to give everyone a drink. What Dave was seeing was the spectacle of the hands and feet of the Body of Christ on earth. And the privilege it is to be part of that.
Dave saw Cynthia had gone in the house and Andy walking toward him, then with a broad smile Andy asked, "How did you ever pull this off?"
Dave smiled back, "Nope, wasn't me. Remember we prayed last week. This was all God!"
This is the Journey.