Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Baptism of Richard Trussell


Dear Friends,

Today’s AMEN Corner is co-written with a friend of mine, Pastor Sam Platts. In 1975, Pastor Sam came to Lutheran Church of the Master in Sylmar. This small church of 30 became Church of the Foothills and blossomed into a spiritually healthy church of 250 through the ministry of Pastor Sam and the grace of God. Pastor Sam has many wonderful stories of how God moved in that Lutheran congregation and this is one of them...
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WOMAN GIVES BIRTH TO CHILD WITH TWO HEADS! Or so the headline of the National Enquirer screamed, and reading the so-called news article proved the whole story implausible. But fictional stories are what sell that rag and so I bought the paper. I wanted to see what they wrote about, how they attracted attention. How could I publicize our little church, Lutheran Church of the Master? So we decided to follow their example. We wrote up an Enquirer-style newspaper with pictures and cartoons and a bold headline saying, THE INFANT JESUS WAS A GIRL!, which happened to be true at the Christmas Eve pageant in our church. Ten thousand copies of the paper were printed, and using a reverse phone directory, our members hand-addressed all of them to every house in Sylmar. We had a bulk mailing permit and sent them out. Nothing much happened at first.

Richard Trussell had been raised in a Southern Baptist church in Colorado. He was in High School when his parents were divorced. He felt that the way the congregation treated his mother was absolutely shameful. He said that if this was Christianity, he wanted none of it. Richard became a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He still had religious feelings and curiosity, but had no respect for Christianity. He met a wonderful woman with whom he fell in love. Her only bad quality was that she was a Christian! He studied the great eastern religions under the guidance of an Indian who was a Jesuit priest, Dr. Raimundo Panikkar. One day when Richard was sounding off on the stupidity of Christianity, Dr. Panikkar said, “Richard you know a lot about eastern religions, but you really don't know anything about Christianity besides what you learned as a teenager in a little Baptist church in Colorado.”

Richard took him up on his challenge and decided to study Christianity. Eventually he came to the conclusion that there may be something to it in theory, but in practice? Then came the day that he reached into his mailbox and out came our Enquirer-style newspaper. Richard and Nancy showed up on Palm Sunday. The congregation was outdoors waving palm fronds. A donkey was carrying children down the path from the field. Richard and Nancy were dumbfounded. “Ohh! What kind of strange religion is this?” They liked it immediately. They became regular in attendance, became close to many people in the congregation and decided that they should become members.

Although Nancy was a Christian, she had never been Baptized and Richard assumed that he had also never been Baptized. A Sunday was set aside for their Baptisms. On that morning, Richard came into my office with a strange look on his face. “I can't be Baptized,” he said as he showed me a letter from his mother. He had been baptized at age of eleven in the Baptist church, but along with his mother's letter were two Baptismal Certificates! One from the Baptist church and another from a Lutheran church. In Richard’s own words, “To my great surprise I received two certificates. I discovered that I had been Baptized as an infant in a Lutheran Church. I realized that all my spiritual searching brought me to where it first began. Home at last!” Richard had been a Baptized Lutheran all along! Our Lord had chosen him long ago. Richard was called to ministry and he studied at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley. Richard was ordained and called to a pastorate in Dublin, California. Today he is a beloved professor at Pike’s Peak Community College in Colorado.
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So many of us have been there. Lost. Searching. Doubting. Uncertain about our future. Maybe even angry and unsure about the reality of God in the dysfunction we see around us. But He’s there. He’s there with us in our searching, doubting and uncertainties. With us in our anger and sorrows. He’s always been there. Always will be. He created us. Handcrafted us in fact, right there in our mother’s womb. He knew each and everyone of the days of our life before they ever came to pass. Psalm 139:13-16 NLT What took place yesterday didn’t surprise Him and, as we have often said, He is waiting for you in your tomorrows. And so we smile at Richard’s story because we so clearly see the providence of God as He guided this young man’s spiritual journey. And yet, sometimes in our own struggles, we are unable to see as clearly the guiding hand of God on our life! But God has plans and purposes for each one of us. Jeremiah 29:11 No matter where we find ourselves today.. No matter what our age, situation or circumstance.. No matter which season of our life we are in.. God is with you on your life journey and we must trust in Him to take us into our future filled with hope. “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’” Psalm 91:2  Amen?

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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