Anglican Morning Devotion for 12 November 2021 Anno Domini
A ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! 24That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! 25For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (JOB 19:23-27; KJV)
When I was very young and just beginning to read, my father, who was an avid reader, told me that I could go anyplace in the world, meet any great man or woman of history, enjoy any adventure – as long as I was able to read a book. A book, he told me, was our glimpse into the past, the present, and the future. It was a window on wonderful days gone by. He taught me how to ‘break-in’ a new book so that the spine of the book would not be broken. And he told me that I could meet new and interesting friends between the covers of a book. Thankfully, the great desire of JOB was satisfied as recorded in the Holy Bible.
Soon, I was able to confirm the truth of what my father had told me. I was with Robin Hood on many summer afternoons in Sherwood Forest, road with the Pony Express, sat with the Knights at King Arthur’s Round Table, and traveled the battlefields of the War Between the States with General Robert E. Lee (thanks to the superb writing of G.A. Henty). The Bible, too, soon came to be a favorite, and I read the mysterious prophecies of Daniel and Revelation with an eager mind; but my interest slowly turned to the beauty of the Gospels and the great Personage figured therein. I came to be disinterested in fiction since I found the excitement and truth of non-fiction far more stimulating. That is, except for the great Russian writers such as Chekov, Dostoevski, and Tolstoi. These added a spiritual dimension that was as real as non-fiction. Later, I was also attracted to Solzhenitsyn.
Though Tolstoi wrote tomes of works based on historical settings, his writings that are of far greater universal appeal are those short stories which are as touching and lovely as a rose unfolding. My favorite of all of those is “Where Love is, God is!” It is almost a Gospel parable in the common vernacular of the poorer class of God’s people. It makes me sad to know that the average child of today will never experience the simple joy of reading such wonderful works of past masters. Their lives are taken over by the distracting arts of technology so that thinking and feeling are no longer required but replaced by instantaneous gratification.
One such story of Tolstoi is titled, “Where Love is, God is,” or sometimes referred to as “Martin the Kobbler.” The story is of an old man of small possessions named Martin. Martin has lost his wife long ago. All of his children died in infancy except for one son who died of fever just as he had attained adulthood.
Martin was a good man but bent over by the burden of loss and sorrow. He had all but given up his faith in God and had ceased attending to his spiritual duties at church.
My account of the story is much abbreviated, so, I hope the reader will find this story and read it fully. I can send a copy to any who request it.
Martin was encouraged by an old friend, who was a holy man, to again call upon God and study the Scriptures. This Martin did one night in the cold of winter. One passage struck to Martin’s heart: “’He gave no water for his feet, gave no kiss, his head with oil he did not anoint. . . .’ And Martin took off his spectacles once more, laid them on his book, and pondered. ‘He must have been like me, that Pharisee. He too thought only of himself — how to get a cup of tea, how to keep warm and comfortable; never a thought of his guest. He took care of himself, but for his guest he cared nothing at all. Yet who was the guest? The Lord himself! If he came to me, should I behave like that?’ Martin fell asleep at his table but was startled to hear his name called. He awoke but found no one in his room.He got up, and thought he heard someone whispering, “Expect me; I will come to-morrow.” This must be the Lord, Martin thought.
Next day, Martin could not help but gaze frequently out his window as he workled. Martin spied a poor man with very shabby boots and dress. He called him inside, gave him hot tea. The old man departed after being warmed at Martin’s fire and by his hospitality. Then, came an women poorly dressed and carrying a baby. She too was invited in, given gruel soup, and some of the old clothes of Martin’s deceased wife. He cared for the little baby, too, and gave many garments to the child that had belonged to his dead children.
Martin then saw a fruit-dealer accosting a young boy who had stolen an apple. Martin saw the boy was poor and hungry. He persuaded the woman not to call the police but let the boy go. He paid for the boy’s apple.
That night, as he opened his Bible, Then he took the Gospels from the shelf. He meant to open them at the place he had marked the day before with a bit of morocco, but the book opened at another place. As Martin opened it, his yesterday’s dream came back to his mind, and no sooner had he thought of it than he seemed to hear footsteps, as though some one were moving behind him. Martin turned round, and it seemed to him as if people were standing in the dark corner, but he could not make out who they were. And a voice whispered in his ear: ‘Martin, Martin, don’t you know me?’
‘Who is it?’ muttered Martin. ‘It is I,’ said the voice. And out of the dark corner stepped Stepánitch, who smiled and vanishing like a cloud was seen no more.
‘It is I,’ said the voice again. And out of the darkness stepped the woman with the baby in her arms and the woman smiled and the baby laughed, and they too vanished.
‘It is I,’ said the voice once more. And the old woman and the boy with the apple stepped out and both smiled, and then they too vanished. And Martin’s soul grew glad. He crossed himself put on his spectacles, and began reading the Gospel just where it had opened; and at the top of the page he read ‘I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.’
And at the bottom of the page he read, ‘Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren even these least, ye did it unto me‘ (Matt. xxv). And Martin understood that his dream had come true; and that the Saviour had really come
to him that day, and he had welcomed him. Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy 1885