I’ve just come back from a Thanksgiving Open House at the restored Gloria Dei Church which burned nearly to the ground not long ago. Our Choir was one of about eight to sing and Temple Israel’s Rabbi was one of the religious leaders who led us in reverential thoughts between anthems. Coincidentally, one of two active Duluth Jewish synagogues also burned to the ground last spring. Impermanence is on my mind. Even the impermanence of the United States.
The state of America is constantly on my mind as it was Sunday when our sermon sprung from Jeremiah 23:1-6. God was unhappy with someone:
23 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
Lincoln famously said he didn’t know which side of the Civil War God was on even as both sides claimed to have God’s favor. I feel the same way. Either God is on the side of Rick Wiles, the Trump-worshiping pastor in this video or me a happy agnostic who has found almost every action by Donald Trump to be repellent. I could not worship any God that would put her trust in the Donald Trump I’ve watched slack jawed for the past thirty years.
Here’s the video. It will be followed by something I read in a 1947 Reader’s Digest that took the poison out of my head from watching this video:
If I have anything to say about it Donald Trump will not be reelected but I’m not sure I will have any say other than the single vote Republicans will be unable to take from me because, I’m not poor, or easily fooled or without transportation to get to the polls. So
This delight is from the January 1947 issue which had some fascinating pieces including reporting from Russian controlled Poland a few months before the Iron Curtain delivered the Poles into the hands of Vladimir Putin…..oops, I mean…..Joseph Stalin.
But what follows is the story that I really loved. It’s about a country postmistress who attended a postmaster’s convention in Washington D.C. during Republican Ben Harrison’s Presidential administration. Here’s the set up:
Invited to this three day gala was a famous woman author/speaker of that Era, Kate Fields. I’d never heard of Fields but Wikipedia has. She was such a famous commentator that everyone expected her to speak afterwards but she had only agreed to attend the gala with the assurance that under no circumstances would she be asked to speak. She did not want to embarrass herself by talking about something she knew nothing about – the postal service. But her reknown was such that after the gala’s final dinner toasts the awestruck guests began chanting her name to speak. Then to her fury she heard someone announce that Kate Field was about to give a speech. The celebrity looked up and saw a tiny old woman standing before the audience. Puzzled she scanned the long list of attendees and was surprised to see that one of them was also named Kate Field.
And so the other Kate Field, post mistress of Cumberland Corners, Kentucky began speaking:
“Fer the life of me I can’t understand why you called fur me to speak,”the little country post Mistress said. “It’s the last thing I expected when I came to this meeting. In fact when I got Uncle Sam’s invitation I didn’t see how I could come at all. What with my chair-ridden, and no one to keep the Post Office or care for the chicken’s. Then I met brother Elkanah Barton, pastor of the Baptist church. “Kate he says,” ‘ ’tain’t fittin for you to go gaddin’ off up North alone among all that wickedness, ‘specially since them Republicans have taken over the Guv’ment. Cleveland ain’t no longer president – maybe you don’t know that.’ When brother Elkanah said that, insultin’ my intelligence – I sez, I’m going now no matter who says I shan’t.’
“These three days we’ve heard lots about big post offices, but nothing has been said about the little post offices like mine. You’ve heard lots o’ jokes about them that keep post offices readin’ the mail. With me that ain’t no joke. Ours is a mountain country. Lots of folks don’t get to town once a month. Mail seldom comes for them ‘cept bad news – death, sickness or worse troubles. I reads it, then I get somebody with a sure-footed mule, and willin’ heart to take the mail where it orter to go.
“And while I’m confessin’ – I once committed forgery. Widder Hover’s boy Jake runs away and she never heard nary a word. Then one day a letter came. She can’t read, but she never lets on. She says ‘Kate, read it fur me, I’m having heaps of trouble with my eyes.’ I read to myself. ‘Dear Ma. This is a fine country up north. I am well and I hope you are the same. I hope you can send me some money soon. I sure need it. Jake.’ When I seed what it said, I changed that last part to read, ‘I hope I can send you some money soon. You sure need it.’ If you’d seen the widder’s face you’d been glad you had committed forgery. She went out like she had wings, a-shoutin’, ‘I knowed there was good in Jake. I knowed it.’ I sat down and wrote that good-fur-nothin’ a letter. I said if you don’t git to work and git some money and send it to your ma, I’m comin’ up thar and when I’m through with you you’ll look funny running aroun’ with no skin on you.’ And he did send her some money.
But law! I didn’t intend to go on like this. You’ll be takin’ me for a Hard Shell Baptist preacher, which I ain’t, but only Kate Field, Postmistress, Cumberland Corners, Kentucky.
Postmistress Kate Field received a boisterous standing ovation. There was just one problem. Postmaster General John Wannamaker realized that if the story got out the postmistress would discover that she had not been the intended speaker on everyone’s minds and would feel humiliated. That part of the story was hushed up. Years later when Kate Field died the story as it was told by the day’s newspapers was lying next to her bed. It read: “The closing speech was the speech of the evening. It was also a great surprise. And evidently wholly unprepared. The ovation at its close should warm the speaker’s heart till the end of her days.” At the bottom of the clipping the Postmistress had written in a trembling hand. “It did.”
This is my condensation of the Digest’s condensation of a story published by “The Christian Advocate.”
The world was not perfect in 1947. Germans in Poland were made refugees by the hundreds of thousands. Harry Truman was a year away from integrating the Army. The Cold War and the Red Scare were only months away. But a magazine for and about Christians could poke fun at hard shell Baptist because, like Lincoln, they had a sense of decency and proportion and, unlike Pastor Rick Wiles, they weren’t counting on God’s chosen one, Donald Trump, to bring about “The Rapture” and abandon a Earth in the throes of human destruction to go sit at God’s side……perhaps with all that money so many of them think God gave them because they were such good Christians.