This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24
For eighteen years, Herb Mock served as the principal of St. John’s Lutheran School in Marysville, Ohio. You know the place – the small country church on one end of the property with a school filled with hundreds of bright, young faces learning and playing on the other. Standing in the center of this ministry was Herb. He had established himself as a teacher and a principal at schools in Texas and Michigan before arriving at St. John’s in 1988. There he would spend those next eighteen years growing a ministry, developing teachers, forging relationships, and most of all sharing the love of Christ with the children of St. John’s.
Now I must admit before I go any further that I didn’t know Herb as a principal; I only met him a few years ago while on a trip with my wife Linda. He was Linda’s first principal when she began her teaching career and over the eleven years that they worked together they formed a professional and a personal connection that helped mold her into the amazing teacher that she has become. For Linda, Herb was the perfect mentor and boss. He praised her for the things that she did well, but equally important to her was the way he challenged her to improve in areas he felt needed work. Herb had a no nonsense approach to getting the work done and presenting oneself in a professional manner while at the same time possessing a rich sense of humor and a love for pulling pranks.
But what Linda appreciated most about Herb was his dedication to sharing the Gospel. He would often remind the teachers at St. John’s of a familiar verse from Psalms that many of us like to forget when we are having a difficult day. Herb would declare to the teachers, “This is the day that the Lord has made,” providing others the opportunity to finish the verse by saying, “let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The point is easy to see. We as Lutheran Teachers have the wonderful responsibility to teach, share, and show our children the love of Jesus Christ. God Himself has given us this day to make that happen so what other response could we possibly give than to rejoice? Sure puts a lousy morning into perspective!
One lousy morning that had to have tested Herb’s love for this verse was the morning of September 11, 2001. Linda recently shared with me how St. John’s made the decision to not tell the younger students in the school about the attacks, but as the older children had heard the news it was decided to gather the fifth through eighth graders in the church to meet, talk, and to pray. I can imagine the thoughts that must have been racing through Herb’s mind as he assembled the children. What do I say? How can I explain this? How much detail should I provide? But then I remind myself that those were my questions – my human attempt to explain sin. When I break it down to its simplest form, I see that Herb knew just what needed to be done. He brought a group of sad and hurting people before the altar of the Lord to pray for peace, strength, comfort, and the assurance that God is always with us – guiding us by His Spirit into the days to come.
On the afternoon of Sunday, September 11, 2016, the fifteenth anniversary of that terrible day, Herb returned to the front of the church at St. John’s Marysville. The difference was that this time he was lying in a casket. The church was filled with family, colleagues, former students, friends, and a guy who had only met him once. It was Linda – his former first grade teacher, assistant principal, protégé, and friend who made this amazing connection. Over those years the reason for gathering was different, but the message we were receiving had not changed. Once again, Herb had brought together a group of sad and hurting people before the altar of the Lord to pray for peace, strength, comfort, and the assurance that God would be with us – guiding us by His Spirit into the days to come. I hardly knew Herb Mock, but there is no doubt in my mind that this man of faith who accepted God’s calling to share his Savior’s love with thousands of children is now experiencing the joy and peace of being in the arms of Christ firsthand. Knowing that Herb is with His Savior, knowing that we too will join him leaves me with only one thought…..
This IS the day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Well done good and faithful servant…