What is this? In our church office, it is a running joke that when I leave the office, I am on my way to do important pastor stuff, as if, that is all they need to know. My important pastoral work might include bringing communion to the homebound, preparing a study, or making a hospital visit. Sometimes, it is not really important or pastoral at all. When I was serving in Edmonds, I played on a church softball team. Between visits, I’d sneak a trip to the batting cages in to tune up for that night’s game. Having confessed that, in the past week, I have enjoyed three important pastoral lunches in a row with three eclectic colleagues, all very different, all very dedicated, and all very distinctive. One is a woman at my current congregation who is experiencing the call to be a pastor. Recently, she preached for the first time, did a fine job, and was riding the high. She is wrestling with how, when, and where to go to seminary with finances and family considerations. As she talked with a mix of awe, anticipation, and a humble heart, I was humbled. In her call story, I remember my first stirrings to serve. You have a sense of how daunting the task is, to preach, lead, and care for God’s people. As I assured her, it wasn’t her idea and God’s grace is sufficient to the task, I was remembering that reality in my own ministry.
What does this mean? The Old Testament prophets seem to object to the call for exactly that reason, think Jonah, Jeremiah, and Moses, it is simply too much for any mortal to do. This is true of God’s call to be a parent, teacher, or leader. Whatever God calls you to do, you need God’s grace to do it. It is surprising what God will call his people to do. My second lunch was with a former colleague, Jim, who was my co-pastor in Edmonds. We were a couple of single pastors that our congregation adopted as their own sons. We were there when Jim met his wife, Arlys, one of Elizabeth’s good friends. So we’ve shared a great deal. Jim was visibly animated as he talked of his new ministry, to close dying congregations. He is by nature, a melancholy guy, not given to enthusiasm easily. But, now Pastor Jim is the Gung-ho Closer. What gives? Jim has always been gifted in a crisis, helping people face calamity, and a congregation shutting its doors certainly qualifies. So this is an opportunity to use his skills in significant ways. He has always been a faithful and passionate preacher of the way God brings life out of death. Being reunited with Jim reminded me what a blessing it is to have good, godly people with whom you share the ministry. Plus, God calls unexpected people to do unexpected work for the Jesus’ sake.
What is the takeaway? Many people will come to church and prefer to remain in the safety of the pews, when God is calling everyone who shows up to share in the work. Yes, the church needs givers, servers, volunteers, and supporters. But, I am convinced that everyone likes to use their gifts and need to get into the action. It never ceases to amaze me how God changes a life, once they take the risk of stepping up to leadership, joining a mission, or trusting themselves to a small group and relationships in Christ. My third lunch is actually today with big, jolly Pastor Brent with his contagious sense of humor. We have lunch about every two weeks, usually at a spicy, Asian place because we both love food. Brent is both an encourager and a comedian, so he is always a trip. What I most appreciate about him is that Brent takes me back to my Baptist roots. He is the son of a Baptist pastor, now he is a Messianic Christian pastor. Essentially, that means that he is an evangelical that follows the Jewish calendar. His breadth of biblical knowledge and passion for evangelism inspires me in ways that complement my Lutheran emphasis of grace alone. Today we are having lunch at Pacific Lutheran cafeteria and attending a seminar on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He’s not a Lutheran (yet) but he is my brother in Christ. Bottom line: to share food, fellowship, laughter, and faith is what makes us Jesus’ people.