Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Remembering Max...and How to Do God's Work

Christ In Winter: reflections on faith from a place of winter for the years of winter…

Max Ferguson has died. He was 94. I know pastors should not have favorites among their members, but he was one of my favorites.

Max was newly retired as a physiology professor at Eastern IL U when I came to Charleston. I know from my own fairly recent early retirement days that people looking for committee members see the newly retired as a prime source of fresh, if slightly withered, bottoms to place on the chairs in the committee room. I tried to get Max to be an organization man, but if he had ever been one, he wasn’t anymore. Instead, he suggested that I should play clarinet in his Dixieland band.

Max was more of a people person than an organization man. Bob Butts says that a student once told him that on the first day of class, Max said, “If you ever need me, here’s my home phone number,” and he wrote it on the blackboard. And he was a man of nature. In retirement, he spent long hours running his own apple orchard.

I have been blessed with a lot of those Max types over the years in my churches, those who found God in people and nature and music rather than in committee meetings. I didn’t understand what a blessing they were at the time. I wanted them to give in to my entreaties to chair a committee, or at least be a member, so I could get the District Superintendent to stop hounding me about having names on all the lines of the Charge Conference forms.

I suspect Max had put in plenty of committee hours as a university professor and had learned his lesson: that’s not where you find God. It’s not even where the work of God is done. The work of God is done person to person, or maybe apple to person.

So if you want to do the work of God, don’t try to do it by committee. Go to an orchard and get some apples and give them to folks who are hungry. That’s what Max did. And if the DS doesn’t like it, give her an apple, too. At least it will shut her up for a little while.


{I also write the fictional “Periwinkle Chronicles” blog. One needs a rather strange sense of humor to enjoy it, but occasionally it is slightly funny. It is at}

(If you would prefer to receive either “Christ In Winter” or “Periwinkle Chronicles” via email, just let me know at, and I’ll put you on the email list.)

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