Pastor Snyder reminds me to be thankful

My last recollection of Pastor Lyle Snyder, he was swimming in a large tub of beer.

Every time his head rose above the surface, he had a big smile on his face.

The pastor at St. Stephen Lutheran Church was volunteering his time in the Brau Brothers HopFest dunk tank. It just so happened that the tank was not filled with water, but lots of beer.

“Boy did I smell bad afterwards,” the pastor told me when we met Friday at the Coffee House Friday morning for a cup of different kind of brew.

“I actually walked home because Emily (his wife) didn’t want me to be in a car because if something happened like I got pulled over and had that smell on me. So yea, I walked home. Oh, I reeked.”

Pastor Snyder wanted to talk to me about a Thanksgiving tradition among Christian churches in Marshall. Every Thanksgiving, offerings collected during services go toward a special program offered by the Marshall Area Ministerial Association. The funds help travelers who find themselves stranded in Marshall.

“It’s used when people are coming through, need gas, lodging, meals, bus tickets — things like that,” he said. “It could be a family driving through on their way to somewhere — wherever home was or is — or maybe they have a job lined up there. Or they could be hitchhiking across the U.S.”

I was amazed travelers would find themselves stranded in Marshall. “We really are not on the main path,” I told him.

“We are not, but we are on a path. It’s usually a night at a motel and leaving the next day. It’s usually, I’m stuck in Marshall and I’m on my way to some place else.”

So while on the subject of paths, I asked Pastor Snyder about his path to becoming a minister. I took a quick sip of my coffee when he started his story.

“In high school I was a huge atheist. I did not believe in God at all,” he said. “My coming back to faith per se, really had to do with an argument during an Old Testament course (at the University of North Dakota).

“So my coming back to the faith came from the argument in class over the floods story. One of the more conservative students said, ‘so you are trying to tell me the flood never happened?’ “

Pastor Snyder said the professor’s answer shook him.

” ‘No, that’s not what I’m trying to tell you. What I’m trying to tell you, there is always truth in fiction,’ “ the professor said, according to Pastor Snyder. “And one made me go ‘whoa.’ So I took all the religion courses I could. So my coming back to the faith was because of a very secular former religious person — a professor at a very large university.”

He also recounted during his senior year in college his mother asking him what he was going to do after graduation.

” ‘Your dad and I thought we might know what you want to do,’ “ his mother said. “And I said, ‘be a pastor?’ ‘Yea,’ (she answered).”

“Does that make it easier for you to talk to people who are kind of losing their faith?” I asked.

“I can speak their language,” he said.

And what about these crazy political times? Democrats vs. Republicans. Charges of sexual harassment by politicians who profess to hold Christian values.

“There was a theologian, brilliant pastor, professor who said ‘when you preach, have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” he said. “I have given it much thought because in some ways, these might not be unusual times. But humans are always the same through the course of history.

“With all the political stuff and polarization, Republicans vs. Democrats, I tend to not care about it. God always comes to us in suffering anyways. Jesus is for the losers, not the winners.”

After all, he said, “God appears when things are not good. God appears at suffering. God comes to us when times are hard.”

So getting back to the travelers facing hard times and finding themselves stuck in Marshall.

Pastor Snyder reminded me that those who still want to help, can write checks to the Marshall Area Ministerial Association and send them to St. Stephen Lutheran Church.

And with that he raised his coffee.

“I’m thankful for this cup of coffee,” he said. “And I’m thankful for you being here.”

You can follow Mike Lamb at Twitter@indymlamb