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Wrong Way Reitway

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Contents
“Wrong Way Reitway” by John Sumwalt
“Bringing in the Sheaves” by Frank Ramirez


Wrong Way Reitway
by John Sumwalt
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me?’ (John 6:19)

An old woman named Emma Reitway sat on the front porch of a big house across from the hospital in a small midwestern town.  She stared up at the hospital’s second floor window outside of the intensive care room where her husband, Abel, had been on the ventilator.

Emma was wearing her best dress, the one with the pink rose pattern she had worn for the anniversary party. The dress matched the pretty mask her granddaughter had made her for the funeral ten days later. She pulled it up further on her face as her eye fixed on a bright red cardinal flitting from branch to branch in the lilac bush at the corner of the house.

Emma wondered what the intensive care room looked like and tried to imagine herself sitting beside Abel, holding his hand and kissing his cheek. “If only they would have let me in to see him,” she sighed.

And then she caught herself. Emma could hear Abel’s raspy voice in the back of her mind, “Now don’t you go feeling sorry for yourself girl. You’ve got to take care of our babies.” Emma smiled as she thought of the four boys and two girls they had raised, all those football games and proms and graduations. And now sixteen grandchildren and one more on the way…so many babies.

They had all been home for the sixtieth anniversary party, filling up the house and the back yard. She could see the twinkle in Abel’s eye as he sat there under the apple tree holding the youngest grandbaby while Herb, his lifelong friend, raised a glass, and said, “Here’s to Wrong Way Reitway, you old fool. You’ve been getting it right with Emma for sixty years.” Emma laughed. Wrong Way had been Abel’s nickname in high school. There weren’t many left who called him that now.

And she remembered young Abel, named for his grandfather, a strapping young man, tall like the men on her side of the family, sitting beside her and complimenting her on the dress. They didn’t think he was going to make it for the party, but he had been able to catch a last-minute flight. How delighted everyone was to see him. He hadn’t looked sick….

“If only,” Emma thought, “If only he hadn’t come. If only they hadn’t had the party, if only….”

Suddenly the cardinal in the lilac bush turned his head toward her and began to sing at the top of his voice. He hopped closer to the tip of the limb, looked directly at her and loudly chirped three times before taking wing and flying straight up to the window ledge outside of the intensive care room where Able had been. There he sat, looking and watching, before launching into the same song he had been singing in the bush. Emma laughed out loud and shouted up at the insolent bird, “Wrong Way Reitway, you old fool, I get it; you are still getting it right.”

* * *

Bringing in the Sheaves
by Frank Ramirez
Psalm 126

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 126:6)

“Bringing in the Sheaves” is one of those hymns you can’t help swaying to when it’s played with enthusiasm! Based on Psalm 126, which is about the return of God’s people to their homeland after the exile. Its joyful chorus celebrates repentance and reminds us that surrendering to Christ is not defeat, but victory!

The hymn was written by Knowles Shaw (1834-1878), an evangelist who combined the spoken word with outstanding musicianship in an emotional appeal for Christ.

Shaw was a polymath, excelling as a farmer, a tanner, a carpenter, watchmaker, a manufacturer, and at just about anything he put his hand to. Having lost his father at the age of ten, he bore responsibility for supporting the family. His father’s dying wish was that he should take up the violin, and he so excelled that he was constantly employed at parties.

At one of these parties, however, he heard a voice from heaven challenge him, “Prepare to meet thy God.” Before the night was out, he resolved to change his life, and dedicate his musical skills to the work of the Lord.

Within a few years he began training for the ministry, supporting himself as a farm hand and getting married along the way. He was soon traveling all around the country, determined to lead others to the same repentance and renewal he had found. One fellow evangelist, listening to him practice the organ, took to weeping and admitted that he had kept his heart closed for twenty years because of the death of a wife and child twenty years before. Shaw’s music opened up his heart to God along paths that had been kept stubbornly closed.

It was said that when he played the organ, “He made it talk.” Though he played with abandon, he was always in control, and in perfect harmony. He composed many hymns, including the ever popular “Bringing in the Sheaves,” which he wrote in honor of the great evangelist J.H Fillmore.

He died June 7, 1879, in a train crash in Texas, on his way to a revival in McKinney to which he’d committed himself only the day before. The weather turned bad, and his friends tried to convince him to stay in Dallas and not travel that night, but he insisted, “No, we have telegraphed the brethren we would be there, and we must go; there is no time for rest now. Rest will come by and by.”'

Instead of sleeping through the night, he stayed awake when a Methodist minister named Mr. Malloy, from Arkansas, begged the privilege of his company. Malloy wanted to learn from the master. According to the account of their mutual friend Kirk Baxter, “Brother Shaw proceeded to (teach) in a very earnest manner, saying he depended much on the power of a song-preached Christ; always kept Jesus before the people; made them feel that they were sinners, and needed just such a Savior as he preached; that he never became discouraged; had confidence in the gospel truth as the power of God; that he loved his work and became wholly absorbed in it; and added: ‘Oh, it is a grand thing to rally people on the cross of Christ.”     

Those were the last words he was heard to have spoken. Not long afterwards, the train lurched off the tracks, and fell down an embankment. Mr. Malloy reported that, “he saved my life by pushing me from the position in which he himself fell.” Though there were some who were injured, Shaw was the only one killed. His lifeless body was held under the water by the wreck. Only his hand was visible, pointing upwards towards heaven.

“Bringing in the Sheaves” speaks of the hard but worthwhile labor of all who work for the gospel, and the rewards that come when, rejoicing, we bring in the harvest.

(Want to know more? Go to the “Internet Archive Wayback Machine” where an essay as well as a biography are available.)


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StoryShare, December 13, 2020 issue.

Copyright 2020 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to the StoryShare service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons, in worship and classroom settings, in brief devotions, in radio spots, and as newsletter fillers. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to permissions@csspub.com or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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