2487) The Glue That Holds the World Together

Revelation 14:13 | Revelation 14, Faith scripture, Revelation

From Speaking of the Dead by Russell Saltzman  (American Lutheran Publicity Books, 2014, pages 89-94).

Most people can name their grandparents. Quite a few are able to name their great-grandparents. But reaching beyond to a fourth generation is almost impossible from simple memory. By and large, by the third generation following our own death there will be no one to remember us. There may be stories, snatches of tales for a time, but with little context or any idea of what happened next. That’s how the generations slip away and fall into dust as we live our time on the planet, and then “we fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the op’ning day,” as the old hymn describes it.

In my funeral sermons I try to show the significance of each Christian life. I try to tell it and show it for the living. Most of us– like about 99.99 % of us– are going to live lives that are anonymous to the rest of the world and to fellow believers in the faith. We are the ‘ordinary saints,’ but still members of the ‘priesthood of all believers.’ I want to highlight the unnoticed consequences of common lives, remarkably lived uncommonly well.

What matters for the living, for those of us who are following folks like Hazel, is a reminder that our faith is real, that God does use the ordinary times and places and spaces of day to day living to make a difference in the lives of people around us and for people following us, even if no one has any recollection of our name.

Funeral sermon for Hazel Gerlt, September 17, 1998, Christ Lutheran Church, Stover, Missouri:

I have a favorite quotation from Martin Luther. I have used it on all sorts of occasions, even occasions such as this. I think it is unusually appropriate for this morning, discussing Hazel’s life. This is what Luther said:

The people who quietly do their jobs, tend their children, run the farms, fix shoes, cut hair, prepare food, and teach children are the glue that holds the world together.

The way Martin Luther thought of things, you see, was like this. The holiest moment in worship wasn’t when the Lord’s Prayer was said. It wasn’t when the bread and wine became the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. The holiest moment in worship wasn’t any of those times we might think.

The most sacred moment was when the doors of the church were flung open and Christians went out to be Christians in their daily lives. Ordinary folk, tending the ordinary things of this world, become in God’s grace the glue that holds the world together.

Every Christian life teaches us something about our faith, and how to live that faith. We learn from each other something of the gospel by watching how we go about the ordinary flow of days. And when we look closely at them, we see Christianity at work; because in the unremarkable and common places of life, Christians simply do what Christians are supposed to do with no fuss, no bother, and no headlines.

Living out here in Morgan County, tending this congregation of Christ Lutheran Church here in Stover, those are the kinds of lives I encounter every day. And Hazel’s was one of them.

The significance of what Martin Luther said is that we are often unaware of how important our daily work is, whether it is with our families, our marriages, our neighbors, or at work. We do one thing, we raise our families well, let’s say, and from that, marvelous things happen and we’re not even aware of it. Most of us, most of the time, are just trying to get through the day. But God has arranged this world so that one thing leads to another thing that leads to yet another, moving endlessly outward like the ripples in a pond.

Take Hazel, for an example. You see, she never thought much of how she was a mother, or a wife, or a friend, or an honest employee, or a neighbor. She just was those things.

Now, for most of this world– for nearly all this entire world– these things don’t amount to much. To the world of the media, to the pop culture around us, to the sophisticated world, you and I and Hazel are virtual nobodies. Those kinds of things we do day-to-day as baptized Christians are just too common, too ordinary to get much attention or comment anywhere. And Hazel was so common and so ordinary and so unexceptional that she was never a guest on the Jerry Springer Show, and never once was her picture on the cover of a supermarket tabloid. But what she did do with her life was far more important, far more significant.

She tended her work, supported her family, and loved her kids. In doing so, she became the glue that held the world together in her little corner of it. This is the way God works in our world. God reveals himself – using our Lutheran formula – “in, with, and under” the ordinary stuff of life. And God is always doing extraordinary things with very ordinary tools.

Ordinary water by God’s Word baptizes a little girl named Hazel and destines her for his kingdom. Ordinary bread and wine by God’s Word becomes the food that sustained Hazel’s faith. Ordinary stuff, but by God’s Word it does such extraordinary things.

And now Hazel awaits a place in her Father’s house, the one promised long ago by Jesus.

But before we say our goodbye, I want to be certain you understand what Martin Luther meant. You do see it, yes? In the ordinary work done by common folk like Hazel, like you, like almost everybody you know, you are the glue that binds the world to the love of God.


Ephesians 6:7 — Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.

I Peter 4:10 — Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Revelation 14:13 — Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write:  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
     “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”


You are never tired, O Lord, of doing us good; let us never be weary of doing you service.  But as you have pleasure in the well-being of your servants, let us take pleasure in the service of our Lord, and abound in your work and in your love and praise evermore.  Amen.  

–John Wesley