Little was said by the family gathered in the basement of the church. Built of stone and concrete, its exterior walls served as a foundation of the historic church. A few wise words were spoken. A prayer was said. The air was leaden with silence. Even the children, normally prone to making loud noises, looked in hushed bewilderment at those gathered. Few in the group had slept much over the past few days. Food did not have the taste it once did and thus few had eaten well. The group was tired, hungry, and numb. The task before them seemed impossible as the assembly was still attempting to understand the fog that was the past week.
Walking on legs that seemed foreign, it was an exercise in simplicity just putting one foot in front of the other as they made their way up the stairs and to the front of the sanctuary. Filing into the row designated for the survivors, the casket sat closed as a reminder of the separation. As the opening hymn began, their voices too tired and the air too heavy with emotion to create any semblance of melody, the congregation members behind them provided the volume needed to compensate. So began the first steps of change in the lives of the survivors.
I often think of the voices of the living saints of St. Paul Frankenlust, Michigan providing comfort for our grieving family at a time when singing was too difficult. I often think of standing in the silence of that stone basement. When I hear the phrase “a firm foundation,” those walls are what I visualize. I think of the stones and concrete, and the hands that assembled it more than a hundred years previous; hands of the church’s founders that are no longer with us.
“Upon this Rock” has been the theme for National Lutheran Schools Week this year. With this theme in mind, students took part in special activities all week. School-wide devotions, recreation, and a region-wide combined chapel brought to light the importance that Jesus is our firm foundation in good times and in bad. We were reminded how we are to be extensions of God’s love in our community and world so that we too can bring comfort and light into a world that desperately needs it.
As National Lutheran Schools Week comes to a close, I can’t help but remember that day huddled with family in that church basement. A foundation is quite simple. Immovable and firm, not much attention is paid to it, but when the storms come nothing is more important. Our Lutheran Schools are rooted in the firm foundation of Jesus. His lessons are taught in our classrooms. Like a foundation, those lessons are critical. It is upon this foundation that all else rests. May the lessons of Jesus hold firm in our students. When the storms inevitably come, may our students with the Psalmist faithfully say, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2 English Standard Version).
Neil F. Webb