There are times sitting in a pew at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Topeka, it seems the pastor is delivering a sermon right to me or a member of my family. As intimidating as that might seem, I truly am thankful to my Savior for His words that come with thoughtful explanation through the pastor to me. Never do I feel closer to my Savior than in those moments.
Fortunately for me, my father was one of those pastors throughout my early life. Until his death in August of 1978, he brought me to tears over my sins and tears of joy over my forgiveness and eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Since August of 1999, Pastor Peter Lange has blessed my family with sermons so powerful that God’s message sears deep into our hearts and souls. To have two men do that in my life is one of my greatest joys.
This past Sunday, Pastor Lange’s message struck home with two remarkable words, Tohu W’bohu. Those Hebrew words speak of the opening passage of Genesis and the account of creation, where in our English translation, “the earth was without form and void; and darkness was over the face of the deep.”
Tohu W’bohu. That is exactly how my daughter Kelly felt after the election results of November 4. Laura, my older daughter, Julie, and her family and I felt the same “darkness.” For over a year, Kelly gave herself totally to the campaign of Paul Davis as he ran for Governor of the state of Kansas. Even while Kelly was studying for her master’s degree at Vermont Law School, she worked to organize what seemed to be an impossible mission. Upon her return to Kansas, she immediately began work in finances and soon was named the Finance Director of Davis’ campaign.
Kelly helped Davis raise record amounts totalling over $4.5 million in just 15 months. As much money as that sounds, it cannot compare to the massive amounts his opponent was able to call upon thanks to the Koch brothers and other slush funds, including personal loans taken by the Governor and Lt. Governor.
However, those facts, as important as they are in a campaign of this magnitude, are not the point I am trying to make now. My interest in politics goes back to the days when candidates seemed real to me. I will never forget Jimmy Carter coming to Topeka to speak in a small hall on the fairgrounds where now the Expocentre stands. Carter was just beginning his campaign for the Democratic nomination. Few knew of him, including myself.
As I listened to him speak that night, I heard a good man, a god-fearing man who wanted to be honest and to do the right thing for all people of the United States. However, seeing the former peanut farmer from Georgia, with his wife, Rosalynn, sit on the edge of the stage after his speech answering question after question, mesmerized me. After covering the event for the Topeka newspaper, I told fellow photographer Chris Johns that I had just met the next President of the United States. That proved to be true. Johns, the Executive Vice President, Group Editorial Director and Editor in Chief of National Geographic, is now a good friend of the former President. Carter proved throughout his presidency, and even more so through his continuing peace and environmental efforts, to be all that I saw that night in Topeka.
Kelly found the same in Davis. Sadly, the citizens of Kansas will never know what they have missed. Through Kelly, someone I trust and believe in with all my heart, I came to know a candidate whose sole efforts were for the good of all Kansans and the battle against all odds to bring sanity back to our state. He sought to recapture the pride Kansans have for our state and to cross all political lines to accomplish only good for the state’s citizens. I watched a campaign that never wavered from what was right and decent, never stooped to lies or innuendo, and unfailingly showed amazing class and dignity.
It would be easy to write monstrously long blogs about our Governor’s failed “experiment” that has left our state in such debt that recovery might well be impossible, and left unchecked will destroy Kansas education and important state services. I could write about the shameful smear campaign waged against Davis and the deceitful fear-mongering efforts that used massive amounts of money to virtually buy votes of lockstep Republicans in the last weekend prior to the election or the inexplicable and inexcusable failure of Democrats to vote in a key county. Time will write our Governor’s sad story of the past the four years and throughout the coming years with the chances of a tragic ending. None of that really matters now other to than to offer my thanks to Paul Davis and to my daughter. No father could be more proud.
As I looked into the deeply saddened face of Kelly late on election night, shortly after Davis’ gracious concession speech, I saw Tohu W’bohu. We all felt it and ached for Kelly. The next day in a long and tearful conversation with my daughter, the harsh reality was that Kelly now needs to find a new job, a job that will ignite the same fire she had for the campaign she helped wage. At that moment, the immediate future certainly seemed void and dark with her faith tested like never before. The only thing I could do was cry and pray with her while reminding her that Scripture assures us “all things work together for good for those who love their Savior.”
Which brings me back to Sunday’s sermon. Pastor Lange tied the story of creation to the troubled faith of a ruler that came to Jesus because his son was ill to the point of death, as written in the Gospel of St. John. The ruler’s life was in complete upheaval. He wanted Jesus to come and heal his son. The ruler wanted to see the miracle just as we all want our prayers answered quickly in our own way far too often. Again, the ruler pleaded deeply from his heart, and Jesus, sensing the ruler’s renewed faith, simply said “Go, your son lives.” John tells us, “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”
In creation, God the Father simply said “Let there be light.” With that short sentence, the Father brought the world he created out of Tohu W’bohu and brought us out of a Toho W’bohu faith thanks to the truest “Light,” the Father’s son, our true Savior, Jesus Christ.
Happily, I can report that Kelly, in just days, has again seen the “light.” Her faith restored, she is actively planning the next chapter of her life that hopefully will allow her to continue the fight she truly believes is important for our state. Certainly, that exciting path will not always be smooth, but I have faith that her faith will see her through any “darkness” to the “light” in her life her on earth and the “light” of eternal life.
Pastor Lange and my father always quickly told me “to God be the glory” when I thanked them for one of their sermons that powerfully touched me. I feel Pastor Lange’s closing words to Sunday’s sermon is the wish I have for Kelly, me, Laura, Julie, Tim and Jake, and all those I love. It reminds me that no matter how Tohu W’bohu our lives can be, there is always the “Light.”
“May you also so be blessed to hear and believe Christ’s promises to you,” Pastor Lange said, “and thus find rest for your soul. Amen.”