“The Miller Problem,” Or “The Pastoral Farming Issue” Submitted by An Anonymous Licensed Lay Deacon

This “parable” was submitted to the NOW District Office of the President by an anonymous licensed lay deacon in objection to the LCMS task force recommendations to remove the service of Licensed Lay Deacons in 2016.  This “parable” is posted here as an example of the questions that LLDs are raising as they serve their congregations in unique and challenging situations in the field.

A woman drove past a farm on her way to her “weekend” house and took a particular dislike to the appearance of a farm owned by the Miller family.  She called and wrote to every government agency demanding that something be done about “The Miller Problem”, but since no laws were being violated she was told there was nothing that could be done.  Her chief complaint?  It didn’t look “pastoral” to her because there was a race car sitting in the door of a garage with the engine lifted by a chain hoist, a tractor with a flat tire, there was “junk” machinery everywhere, and the “lawn” wasn’t mowed.

After several months, she finally managed to get through to the head of the state department of agriculture.  He assured her he would look into this and immediately contacted the local state agriculture inspector, John, and wanted to know what he was doing about “The Miller Problem.”  (He had already checked and found no problems).  John in turn was compelled to contact the cooperative milk inspector, Bob, where the Miller farm sold its milk. (Bob had also already checked and found no problem).  Eventually, as these things go, the Millers were told to push the race car into the garage, fix the tractor tire, pick up the “junk”, and mow the “lawn,” even though no law required it.  The Millers pushed the car inside and closed the door, turned the tractor around so the flat tire was not visible, moved the other implements to the backside of the barn out of view, and cut the grass.

Now, when the woman drove by, she thought she had accomplished something very important because what she saw was more aesthetically pleasing.   “This is the way a farm should look!” she smiled to herself.  “Although, honestly, can’t someone paint that house?”  And she made a mental note to follow up with John.

Let’s tally up what the Miller’s compliance accomplished:

The car sitting in the garage door was there so the door frame could be used to safely lift the engine so it could be worked on.  It may not have looked pretty, but it was solid and safe.  Now it was just less safe.  The tractor with the flat also had no working transmission and didn’t need one because it was only used as a power plant for running a piece of equipment that never moved.  They were making use of something that was otherwise irreparable to save a lot of wasted effort connecting and disconnecting other tractors to that piece of equipment–a time-consuming and dangerous prospect.  Again, it made things a lot less safe to comply.  The other implements were arranged for quick connection and use during the busy harvesting season and resting on rock-hard ground where connecting and repair work was easier and safer.  The lawn was allowed to grow as a snack for animals waiting to get in and out of the barn, but now it was gone and the animals had nothing to eat as they milled around waiting.  Several got out and wandered into the road as a result.

The woman went driving by the next week, saw the sheep in the road and had just enough time to think, “How could those Miller’s let a sheep run loose?” before she crashed her car into the animal, and both she and the sheep “stood before the pearly gates.”  We will all have to wait to hear the punchline, because in this particular story, it is most likely no laughing matter.

This much I can say:  “The Miller Problem” did not fix anything for anyone, in the end.