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Pastor ties church burglary to Advent season
Wednesday, 05 December 2007
by Peter Bodley
Managing editor of Coon Rapids Herald Newspaper

Church sermons are usually based on a passage or passages from the Bible.

Not Rev. Richard Lindeman’s sermon at Olive Branch Lutheran Church, Coon Rapids, Sunday.

Instead, it focused on an incident at the church the Sunday before when a burglar(s) emptied the church safe of a bank envelope containing the morning offering.

But Lindeman also tied the theft to the Advent season.

“Now I should tell you that the theft and break in that occurred last Sunday was actually in a strange way sort of appropriate for the season of Advent we are now entering,” Lindeman said.

“For this is the season of waiting and expectation. Advent is the season of surprises. And it is the season of preparation.

“Christ’s coming will be unexpected like a thief in the night. And so we should be prepared for our Lord’s coming at any moment. And yet, I must admit that we weren’t very well prepared for the coming of that thief last week.”

Nor was Lindeman prepared for what happened after the burglary was discovered, he said.

He received a phone call from a stranger stating that the envelope had been found on the ground at 37th and Lyndale avenues in Minneapolis and he wanted it to return it to Lindeman.

Lindeman said he was suspicious because the man said he was staying at a motel in town and did not want to get involved.

At the same time, the man said he hated to see the church get robbed as he had opened the bank “envelope” and found a bunch of checks and some opened offering envelopes.

However, the man told Lindeman he did not want the police involved directly because of past dealings and asked to meet the pastor at the SuperAmerica gas station at Highway 252 and I-694.

He also asked Lindeman if he would be willing to buy some Christmas wreaths that he was selling on the south side of town.

Now really suspicious of the man’s motives, Lindeman agreed to meet him, but also called the police, who arranged to have some officers nearby when he met the stranger.

Lindeman was greeted by the man, who also gave him a hug as well as the bank envelope. Lindeman purchased two large Christmas wreaths and headed for his car.

That’s when the police swooped. They apprehended the man and his wife and returned the money Lindeman had paid for the wreaths.

“But now as I headed home with the bank envelope in my possession, I didn’t feel so good,” Lindeman told his congregation.

A Bible verse from Hebrews 13:1-2 came to his mind, “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Indeed, the next morning, Lindeman was told by the police that the man and his wife were not connected to the burglary, but rather two people who were trying to do a good deed.

That was irony for Lindeman because he had preached about angels at the service before the burglary.

“Here I had just finished preaching about angels on Sunday morning,” Lindeman said in his sermon Dec. 2.

“But on that same Sunday evening when I actually encountered two angels in disguise, this preacher had them apprehended and interrogated by the police! And yet life is like that isn’t it? It’s filled with unexpected twists and turns.”

Looking back, Lindeman said he does not think he would have done anything differently.

But as he said in his sermon, “…there is something more we need and that is forgiveness. I think forgiveness is the real key.”

And Lindeman was able to ask for and receive forgiveness from the man, he said.

Two days after they had found the envelope, Lindeman was able to meet with the man and his wife again.

“First, we talked on the telephone about our first encounter,” Lindeman said in his sermon. “And I immediately asked for his forgiveness for the mistakes I had made.”

The man also apologized to Lindeman for any confusion he might have caused, but Lindeman said the man’s wife was still angry.

Then they met again at the SuperAmerica gas station, Lindeman assuring the man there would be no police around this time.

“We greeted each other with a hug,” he said. “The stranger’s wife was there also and she, too, forgave me and granted me a hug.”

While there were no more Christmas wreaths for Lindeman to buy, he said he did give the couple a small reward for their discovery of the stolen checks.

“And if you just happen to see a man and his wife out selling Christmas wreaths, then don’t be too quick to dismiss them,” Lindeman said in his sermon.

“They may just be angels in disguise.”

Peter Bodley is at moc.cni-mce|yeldob.retep#moc.cni-mce|yeldob.retep

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