A Hard Working Man of Few Words
I met Elwood Egger a little over four years ago.
We first met at church.
Elwood didn’t say much at all to me for the first three years that we knew each other…
He’d give me a handshake and a nod of acknowledgement at the end of the service…
…that was about all he gave me.
I don’t know why
…but my first impression of Elwood was that he was Amish
…maybe it was because he was such a plain man
…a man of few words
…or maybe it was his very practical clothing
…or his snow white beard
Elwood got pneumonia and was hospitalized for the first time in his whole life.
And…I visited Elwood in the hospital.
…either because he was lonely or
…full of steroids…
…I met a totally different Elwood than the one I had gotten to know earlier!
He talked…a lot…
Finally, I thought, a wall has come down between us!
But Jill cautioned me
…that’s the most I’ve heard my dad say…ever!
Then, Elwood had to move into Jill and Joe’s house.
I would pass by there on my way to Carriage Court…
and I’d see him there, sitting on Jill’s side porch
…in one of the white rocking chairs.
…so I felt comfortable enough to stop by and sit with him awhile on the porch
Now…I’m not saying we talked a lot…
…but I believe…we had understanding…
Then…with this last trip to the hospital
(for his broken hip)
My first impression of Elwood got really messed up…
He not only talked my ear off…
…he also became inseparable from a florescent-red
(shockingly vibrant-red!) stocking cap
Seeing Elwood in this bland hospital room…with that red hat on…
…was like seeing a cardinal in a snow storm!
So…now…that’s my final impression of Elwood
….a cardinal in a snow storm.
Quite a statement…from a man of few words!
Jill described her dad,
as someone who always said what was on his mind,
…but who didn’t waste a whole lot of time or words saying it
Kinda like a cardinal in a snow storm.
Elwood was born June 27, 1925 on a farm in Monroe County, Ohio
…to the late Herman J. and Minnie Claus Egger
….where he grew up…living a plain and hard life.
He retired after 33 years
as a machine operator at Dennison Hydraulics
He worked the second shift…
He would come home around 12:30, very early in the morning,
…and Jill remembers she would wake up, crawl into her daddy’s lap
…and be rocked back to sleep in front of the old heater/stove.
During the day…he was well-known for his carpentry skills and cabinet making.
If you ever get a chance to visit the family home on Walnut Street,
…you’ll find all kinds of creative “solutions” that Jill’s dad fixed up in the house…
…hidden light switches
…and convenient cubbies
And he left his mark on our church as well:
Where there are two little stools for Bride and Bride’s maid to sit on
(so they don’t crush their dresses)
…a collection box that King Joash would envy
…and a kitchen counter…topped with red Formica….
(boasting hidden electrical outlets
…for the roaster ovens of yore and the crock pots of today)
Jill remembers her dad enjoyed gardening…BIG gardening
and the family did a lot of canning
and they shared their labors with friends and neighbors.
A stronghold for his family,
he was a man of few words
…and a big heart.
He and his wife, Bonnie,
…along with two biological children…Jill and Don
…fostered 38 children in their home throughout their 45 years of marriage.
Life was never easy for Elwood.
There was a never ending list of chores to do,
and work that could run…from sun-up to sundown.
Elwood’s story is a story that many of us are familiar with…
Either it is the story of our own lives,
…or the story of our parents lives
…or the story of our grandparents lives.
It is the story of a plain and simple, hardworking life.
A life that required scrapping together bits and pieces…
…of putting together scraps to create something whole.
Such is the way life for most people
….for most of recorded history, in fact.
Plain and hard.
For most people, life is an unending litany
…of toil and drudgery,
…of fear and worry,
…of happiness and joy, and of hope and promise.
We, in these first years of 21th century,
…may have created a more complex world
…and our worries and concerns may revolve more around our creations and our technology.
(…our world not being so plain and simple)
But…we have our worry too…
…being disquieted by the complex society that whirls around us in a frenzy
And even though…or in spite of…Elwood’s plain and simple life
…It took Elwood quite a while to undo his life
…It took quite a while for Elwood to leave us
But that’s because living is hard to undo…
…no matter how simple or complex it is.
Read Matthew 11.28-30
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus lived in a world
where the biggest issues in a person’s life were the immediate,
the plain and the simple.
And he spoke in language that the folk around him could understand.
…of working yeast into flour to make dough,
…of scattering seeds on the soil,
…of lost sheep and coins
He spoken in simple terms using words that ordinary, hardworking, everyday people could understand,
words that told about the world, and how it all related to life and living
Jesus often used the plain and hardworking lives of his followers as illustrations
He spokes of the real concerns a person had,
…problems and issues about life that affected life at its core.
Words of a life lived and engaged in at a very personal, very real level,
…life at a level shared by countless other people down through the centuries,
since humanity first began
…who labor from dusk to dawn,
…who struggle to keep your children alive,
…who live in fear of disease
…who live oppressed by people in power who keep you down;
…whose concerns are the concerns of life and death,
His words are words of incredible comfort and promise.
For you are weary and burdened,
and you long for rest,
you long to escape the yoke that your world has placed on you.
Jesus’ words are words of comfort,
They form a promise for us,
whether we live in the first century,
or the 1920s,
or in the confusion and complexity of the 21st century
Jesus’ words speak to everyone,
to people whose language is immersed in the technological jargon of our age,
to the simple words of a plain, hard working man like Elwood.
It doesn’t matter.
Jesus Christ offers refuge from the burdens of the world, and his offer is simple and to the point.
“Come to me” he says “And I will give you rest.”
Being a hard working man of few words is a good thing I guess.
Our world is filled with a lot of extra words that needn’t be said.
—what with televisions and radios and shopping malls—
the noise we encounter is deafening.
No one sits in silence anymore, enjoying the sound of peace and quiet.
Two people can’t sit together without someone feeling pressured to fill in the void.
Extra words tend to clutter things up.
If you keep talking and talking,
eventually what you are trying to say will get lost in the pile of words,
or, the person you are talking just tunes you out.
Jesus wasn’t known for his wordiness…he was a man of action
… A Hard Working Man of Few Words
And so we are assured,
that as we face the losses we will inevitably face in our lives,
as loved ones pass from this life to the next,
…Jesus Christ will meet us at whatever level we need him.
And it his final promise for us all,
that as we close our eyes for the last time and breathe our last, that we will not be alone.
We can now turn Elwood over to the care of the one who promised that he would never leave us…alone,
To the one who will walk with us in the silence,
And lead us to the light,
the light of eternal life.