Saturday, October 25, 2014
The two Pauls were my closest friends in seminary; and I still recall asking simultaneously with Paul G. Watermulder as we recollected over coffee not long before co-presiding at Paul E. Swedlund's memorial service at Kansas City's Colonial Presbyterian Church, "I wonder who will preside at the next service?"
That was 20 years ago.
I wrote about it in the 7/19/14 KD that you can review by going to the right column, clicking on July, and then clicking on "Paul E. Swedlund."
Anyway, I still recall how we'd ride together on our iron ponies on Friday afternoons after Greek to New Hope, Pennsylvania across the Delaware River for a mental bath, played on the best seminary softball team in history, skipped the second hour of Dr. Metzger's Christology class with about ten others in our last year to pick up lunch at Hoagie Haven and then watch coeds from the university rowing team as we joked if the RSV's author/editor proved the virgin birth by having children, jumped over the fence with Yukon Jack to swim at the Windsor Apartments pool in the summer on warm midnights, and...did lots of other things that would have disqualified us from ever getting ordained if discovered.
My first meeting with the surviving Paul was...a forecast of things to come in our evolving ministries and devolving denomination.
He was strolling along with his oldest then his first, stopped me to say hello as I was walking my dog in the opposite direction who later peed on him in his bed when I came over to his apartment to wake him up on the day after Jimmy Carter was elected for the only time, recalled we were in our first seminary classes together earlier in the day, and then asked, "So what do you think about all of that virgin birth stuff?"
We got through that; though I still don't think he's gotten over the reception for franchise moderator Lamar when I was in front of him in line to greet the figurehead, shook his hand, and said, "Dr. Lamar, we're so excited to have you on campus; and my friend Paul here is really excited to meet you because he wants to become moderator of our denomination someday and wants to ask you how he can make sure that happens."
Of course, he's repaid the favor over the years.
The rest is fraternity that has survived...lots of other things that would have...
I'll never forget meeting his dad David B. Watermulder, senior pastor of the legendary Philadelphia's Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church and President of the Trustees of the even more legendary Princeton Theological Seminary, after a lecture by Martin E. Marty at his/His church.
I had never seen a church sooooooo big that reeked of sooooooo much...affluence.
Paul referred to it in his 10/12/14 sermon as "our very high end congregation."
Or as we often quipped at Princeton, "Somebody's gotta minister to the rich!"
Be that as it was/remains, I was walking alongside the older Watermulder and blurted, "So where do you go from here?"
He ignored me.
I deserved it.
I learned from it.
It was my first lesson in being cordial by not responding to...fools.
Check out Matthew 7:26 in Greek for more on that.
Confessionally, I don't think I really fully understood that lesson until October 2011 when God used time with Eugene to really open up Matthew 15 and 23 for me that is transforming my whole understanding of undersheperding faithful to Jesus by the book and only faithful to Jesus by the book. Maybe that's why I'm so energized for another 20 years...or until I'm assassinated by a jingoistic mainliner or Muslim.
And that's the kinda influence that Paul's dad has continued to have over my life and ministry.
Annnnnnnd there's one more lesson that seems appropriate to bring up now; especially as David at the end of his 94th year begins traveling back home to Jesus.
We were sitting in Paul's apartment not too long before my dog peed on him and I was going on and on and on about how awful it is for the government to execute people for committing crimes that it has assumed warrants capital punishment; thinking I had been really impressive by saying how sad/wrong it is when we end the lives of those who confess and repent after the crime and that it would be far more humane even Christian to let them live the rest of their lives behind bars.
Concluding this fool needed some direction, Dr. Watermulder asked rhetorically, "Are you saying someone who has been born again in prison would be better off in prison for the rest of their lives than executed for their crimes as a momentary punishment preceding heaven?"
Sometimes we forget what this/Church/He is really all about in the end.
I was blessed to have Dr. Watermulder remind me of the most important/essential fact of Christian faith before I misled people into more of an existential than eternal relationship with Jesus.
I was blessed to have Dr. Watermulder help me to avoid the trap that has accelerated the decline of most of today's far more existentially focused than eternally focused churches.
If I have to explain that to you, you wouldn't understand anyway.
That's what happens when you don't spend 99% of your time with Jesus by the book.
Like me - even more then than now.
I thank God for Dr. Watermulder who planted that saving seed in my life.
Dr. David B. Watermulder is traveling back home to Jesus.
His son began that 10/12/14 sermon, "When I spoke with my father last night, he ended the conversation saying, for the umpteenth time, 'My time has come, I am finished here. I am ready to die.'"
Paul continued, "I raise this today because the heart and soul of the Christian faith, the center of our hope for the future, the engine that drives us to decide to be people of exceptional character, is the resurrection."
Ultimately, Christianity is about what lasts forever innnnnnnfinitely more than what happens in time.
Here's a rhetorical question in tribute to Dr. David B. Watermulder.
If we concentrated on that/Him, what unites us in the end, don't you think we wouldn't get sooooooo caught up in and divided by stuff so fixed in time?
Blessings and Love!