This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.
Ministers who have run out of sermon material would do well to take the Great River Road down to Mark Twain's hometown and learn more about Albert Gottlieb. There's material there for several small sermons or a single big one.
Albert came to Hannibal in the 1920's, leaving behind in Europe a lovely young girl with whom the parents had arranged a marriage. He carried with him only a small snapshot of the girl when she was eleven or twelve. It was his intention to send for her when he was settled.
Settling in America took longer than expected. The small grocery store Albert opened grew slowly. The years passed. Albert worried that his beloved would tire of waiting and marry someone else.
Meanwhile, mothers in Hannibal with eligible daughters paraded them through the Gottlieb grocery one after the other, pointing out their daughters' many talents, but Albert remained steadfast and true. His sweetheart was waiting overseas.
More years passed; the snapshot faded. Finally, after ten years, Albert Gottlieb was ready. His prospective father-in-law had good news. The bride would be on the next ship for America.
Albert celebrated so long that night he had to be carried back to his apartment over the store.
Albert cleaned the apartment spick and span, shined up his black coupe, and went to meet the train bringing his bride, along with a delegation from the town. Everyone else waited around the grocery store to toast her with soda-fizzies. The minister was there, too. The wedding was to take place immediately. Albert had already waited too long. Finally, the shiny coupe pulled up to the store.
Let me pause a moment here. To this point, the story is absolutely true. But I know ministers, and I know they’re thinking: "This story could end in many different ways, depending on which chapter and verse needs illustrating. I'm certainly not going to spoil it for them by telling you what really happened.
Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.