Why he calls himself The Old Fool

The Old Fool

Imagine a young Mennonite man in his early twenties who in 1950 without a college education, pastoral experience or having lived in a city,  left his Pennsylvania country home and traveled 1,000 miles to Tampa, Florida, taking with him his young wife, two year-old daughter, and most of their belongings stashed in and strapped onto their 1932 Chevrolet coupe.    His sole purpose was to be a missionary pastor of a small city mission.  Could I not have been considered a young fool?

Many years later in my preaching ministry I gave attention to Solomon who was the wisest, richest, and most successful of King David’s sons. What if Solomon had been able to turn his chariot into a time machine and could enter the days of King Jesus. Suppose Solomon saw Jesus and the twelve men and some women  walking  from Galilee to Judea?  What if he knew that the men had left the occupations they were trained for, and the women had left their husbands behind them?      

Solomon had written, “Go to the ant thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.” Solomon praised toil and condemned anyone who would not work, but Jesus said to the people, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  I concluded that Solomon would scoff at Jesus and his followers as fools. 

I realized also that anyone who was even a little bit like Jesus risked being a fool. The church asked me and a few others to listen to believing gays and lesbians who were being hurt by the church.  I listened to their stories of rejection by church, community, and sometimes by family. I felt that I was being more like Jesus than ever before. 

A peer and friend whom I respected invited me to lunch to warn me.  “Be careful,” he said,  “guard your reputation and retire quietly.”  I understood.  I was being told  not to speak up on behalf of lesbians and gays.  That clinched it.  I would be an Old Fool and would not quiet down.  I would be a fool for King Jesus.

In times past every royal court had a jester who was expected to tell the king what others could not say in times of crisis.  I carry the moniker of Old Fool lightly.   I only wish, oh how I wish, that I could say to Mennonite leaders and the conferences and congregations they represent that they sometimes unwittingly censure the very ones that Jesus will give seats of  honor at his great feast.

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About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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