The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Gran'ma taught me that Jesus loves me

Gran’ma had bread baking in the oven, the wood range was fired up nice and hot, and the kitchen smelled wonderful. The water reservoir on the range was warm. I leaned my back against it as I sat on my little stool reading the Sunday school storybook. Even so—and wearing the gray sweater Gran’ma had knitted for me--it was “cold around the edges,” as the grown-ups said.

On those early spring days—even when it rained as it had that day—the living-room heater was seldom fired up until evening when Uncle Ted, 10, and Aunt Olive, 13, came home from school. No use warming up the rest of the house. Gran’ma and I stayed mostly in the kitchen. I liked it that way. Whatever she did, I was her shadow. I’m sure she was glad I learned to read so early (I was 5) because at those times my endless chattering would stop.

Gran’ma sat in her corner mending, and I read that Sunday school book. The chapter heading was “The Crucifixion.” That was too big a word for me so I asked Gran’ma. She said, “I don’t think you want to read that chapter anyway.” But with my inborn perversity I decided that was certainly the most interesting chapter in the book.

So I read the chapter—about how these people tied Jesus’ hands, spat upon him, beat him and put that horrible crown of thorns on his head. The book’s pictures showed how he bled from those thorns. They made him carry that heavy cross. They put big nails into his hands and feet. His mother and the disciple whom he loved stayed at the foot of the cross until he died.

I’d never known grief, but I ached for his mother. I’d never heard of people being mean just to be mean. I’d never heard of discrimination, crime or persecution. Life was so simple in 1923 when one lived on a farm in northern Minnesota with a grandma who spoke only Swedish and aunts and uncles who made me the center of their world.

Then suddenly there was this story in the Sunday school book. I wept. Gran’ma took me on her lap and wrapped her loving arms around me, trying to explain that Jesus let them do all that to him so we could all go to heaven. I was too young to understand. Gran’ma said it was because he loved us so.

Love was a word we didn’t use around there. In retrospect, I now know how much love filled that house. But we didn’t talk about it. However, Gran’ma, with her arms around me, said, “You know I love you, don’t you? If I didn’t, you wouldn’t be sitting on my lap with my arms around you.” And comfortingly she rocked me side to side on her lap, her cheek resting on top of my head.

“Well,” she told me, “Jesus loved us all even more than that. And it happened many, many, many years ago. So you mustn’t cry about it now. You’ll learn more about it when you get older.” And I have.

Right then I really couldn’t understand. But the warm circle of Gran’ma’s arms was the beginning of my awareness of love—hers and God’s. And mine.

Check out this week's articles:

cover4Lutheranism 202: (right) Reading the Augsburg Confession, we delve into the meaning of faith.

Angry man of the 16th century: We shouldn't follow Martin Luther into the 21st century in some things. Here's why.

Eisleben festival to recall Luther's baptism—and ours.

Jesus for President? Never. But as Lord he presides over all of life.

Also: Lutheran course work.

Also: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Also: From college to university.

Read these articles at our front page ...

Tell us: Does size matter?

You’re invited to contribute to a future story about how ministries differ in large, medium and small congregations.

• What are the gifts and liabilities of a congregation’s size?
• What size do you prefer and why?
• What ministry is possible (and no doubt wonderful) simply because of your congregation’s size?

Send your response (no more than 500 words) to any or all of the above questions to julie.sevig@thelutheran.org or by mail to Julie B. Sevig at The Lutheran, 8765 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago, IL 60631. Deadline is Nov. 21.

Tell us: Why worship?

The following questions could be for you or for someone you know if you're willing to pass them along:

So you prefer the Church of the Holy Comforter (the one on your bed)?

• If you used to be a regular worshiper, what made you stop?
• How do you feel about your decision?
• If you go occasionally, what draws you?
• What do you miss or not miss?
• How do you tend to your spiritual needs?
• What would bring you back to worship?

Respond to any or all of these questions in 400 words or less to julie.sevig@thelutheran.org.

Deadline is Nov. 17.Julie

This week on our blog:

Sonia Solomonson blogs about The Little Christian.

Julie Sevig (right) blogs about remembering the poor.

Andrea Pohlmann blogs about keeping students interested in reading.


Check out our staff blog ...

The October issue of The Little Lutheran has arrived!

Don't let them miss another issue.

The Little Lutheran helps children 6 and younger learn about God's love for them and the world in which they live. It teaches them about Jesus, their friend and savior.

Subscribe today ...


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