(If you have been my social media friend, you have seen this story. So bear with me; I just have to make it a part of my blog site too. Next weekend I will attend Steve’s retirement. I know he will be honored well and I am grateful.)
This is my brother Steve. He was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. Yes, really. Okay, so it was Bethlehem and Nazareth PA but, this morning as I read Luke 2, I was reminded of the fun we had with this bit of trivia while growing up. Add to the trivia that Steve was saved before he attended his first day of kindergarten and called to preach before he even knew what a Windsor knot was and you realize that I really did have a brother who seemed to always be “about his Father’s business.”
Steve has been on my mind all day. So often we elevate the testimonies of those who have made a real mess of their lives. That is not Steve’s story. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for a God who redeems no matter where we have been. But, sometimes, I think we need to trumpet the fact that God can keep us from the mess in the first place. I know it’s possible because I grew up watching him.
Four years ago as Steve and I accompanied our girls on their annual post-Christmas shopping trip, he shared with me that he was having some physical issues. Over the course of two years a couple of different diagnoses were made with the final outcome being ALS. There are times when it would be preferable if life came with a big, fat eraser. Even if there had to be rules about when you could use it, I’m sure this situation would have met the requirements. If there is an eraser, I’ve never found it.
Instead, I’ve watched Steve continue to write the story of his life. What has it looked like? Being about his Father’s business. That’s all. And that’s enough.
I have a clearer picture of grace because of Steve. I’ve learned about unconditional love from Steve. I’ve seen Jesus in skin because of Steve. A couple of times Steve has been my pastor as well as my brother – when he preached dad’s funeral and directed the Merki clan through those days of loss and celebration and this past year as he prayed for and with us for God’s direction in our lives. Where could I put that on the grateful scale? On Sunday, he will stand in front of his congregation and preach God’s truth from a heart of love; a task that is becoming increasingly difficult. He will do it anyway.
In the life of Steve Merki, there is God, Diane and four really outstanding A’s as we affectionately call them, the mom he calls every Saturday and the congregation he pastors. Somewhere after all of that is a sister named JoAnne who is incredibly blessed to call him “brother.” That “blessed to call him brother” part is not mentioned in Luke 2. For that you will have to read James.