Osage City, Kansas
Thirty miles south of Topeka, Kansas in the north-eastern corner of Kansas sits the little town of Osage City. It was a town founded by the railraods criss-crossing the United States. The land is flat and hard, hot in the summer and biting-wind cold in the winter.
In the mid-1800's a little church was established there and they called a Covenant pastor, Rev. J. G. Princell from Princeton, Illinois to be their pastor. The church grew and prospered, and Rev. Princell wrote back to his friends in Illinois how great and cheap the land was. So a number of his former members and friends moved out to Osage City. But the land near the city was now cultivated, and available land was 7 miles out in a little town called Stotler. So his friends did move, settle, establish homes and a church, and called him, their old pastor, to come and serve them.
The city church never forgave the country church for "stealing" their pastor. For a hundred years the city church resented the country church for its youth, its size and its vibrancy. It was to this church that I was sent on my internship from North Park Theological Seminary in 1978. I was married for 3 years and we now a 1 year old son. My confindence began high and I got hammered. Nothing I tried worked. I would call my dad and tell him about a situation I was going through and he often said something like "That NEVER happened to me before" which actually made me feel better, that this was a unique situation.
Today I referenced Osage City in my sermon on Luke 14:14-24. It was where I first heard Garrison Keilor do his monologue on Lake Wobegon and Pastor Engkvist. It was so compelling, so real, I wept that November night doing dishes, knowing that I was not alone. Keilor told stories about churches and pastors only those of us on "the inside" know about. Somehow he has learned the password and the 'secret handshake" of this strange club of clergy-persons.
I did not think anyone from beautiful Santa Barbara would connect with Osage City. Wrong! After the sermon 2 people told me their stories of families who had roots in Osage City. They had no painful and bitter memories, but warm, agrarian memories of farms and cow, tractors and hay-bales. They had memories of hard-working immigrants who sacrificed for their children, who loved their country and were not impressed with 'fancy" stuff.
It's kind of easy to think that where I am is where everyone else envies and where others are is fodder for punch lines to jokes. Not so. Every place is precious to someone. California is not full of "fruits and nuts." Minnnesota is not overrun by mosquitos and snow-storms. The south is not the domain of red-necks and the east coast is not dominated by Ivy Leaguers. Every place is precious because every place has people in it for whom Christ died and rose again.