Friday, December 31, 2010
As I was About to Say...
When it comes to New Year's Eve I tend to reflect back through the past year for special events in the past year. I thought this New Year's Eve I'd go almost 40 or so years back. I was led to this decision by a book by a former pastor - a Baptist - who had a knack of seeing humor in what some see as a profession with few things funny. But things happen - even in the most serious professions.
For instance, my first appointment in my first church. Within a day or so someone in the church passed away and I had never conducted a funeral. I told the funeral director I didn't have any experience in funerals and he replied, "Don't worry, we've trained a lot of pastors and haven't lost one yet." With the Pastor's handy dandy funeral guide - and smiles from the funeral director - it worked out fine - the first of many. Another funeral went well until the interment at a small country cemetery. It was on a hillside and there had been rain. As the casket was moved into place a voice came out of the grave, "Don't worry, I'm fine." One of the attendants
had slipped on mud and had fallen into the hole. We retrieved him just before the family and friends arrived.
There was another surprising event early on in the pastorate.I was deep into an early part of a sermon when a cat came in through an open window behind the choir, and scooted over choir member shoulders, across the chancel, and down a flight of stairs. The choir was unnerved, and the congregation was amused. And there was a time when I offered a spirited altar call hoping for some seeking soul to come forward to accept Christ. I knew I was in trouble when I saw a tail wagging in back of a pew and our collie came down the center aisle, sat down at the communion rail,
and smiled. Yes, I can assure you, dogs do smile! And there was the day I offered a profound prayer aand asked the congregation to join in the Lord's Prayer (the Our Father in a Catholic Church). Just as we concluded this prayer, the public address system sounded out: "That's a big 10-4, good buddy!" A neigbor of the church was a hardline CB'er and his strong signal somehow was received through the PA system.
Then there was the time one of the matriarchs of the church grabbed my arm after service and said, "Come with me, Preacher!" She may have been little but she was strong and she dragged me out to a courtyard, where she pointed up. There, on the ridgepole of the church, was our youngest son who grinned and shouted down,"Hey Dad, c'mon up - I can even see barges going through the river lock." I just looked at the leading church lady and she looked at me, and she said "You need to talk to that boy." I did - after I crawled up the ladder and had a look for myself - on Monday.
One time, in a large Florida church, it was my birthday and we were in a staff meeting. Suddenly one of the secretaries came in with a gift for me. A live, wriggling, squealing piglet. The meeting broke up into hysterical laughter and I quickly relinquished the baby pig to the secretary who had rented the animal for the day. Buty the story didn't end there - after the piglet was shown at preschool show-and-tell, it wriggled loose and ran all over the church yard. The sight was beyond belief with a large church staff running around calling, "Here piggy-piggy; Here piggy-piggy!" The event ended up happily ever after and the piglet ended up back home on the farm with no injuries. Oh, there was another pig-related event - a children's sermon about the three little pigs. Everything when according to plan until I asked the children what happened when the big,bad wolf tried to blow down the brick house. Out of the congregation a tiny voice came saying the "the wolf blew down the whole thing." I quickly found an object lesson about houses built of rotten bricks.
In almost 40 years in the pastorate there were more funny or poignant events that I can remember. But as we approach a new year I wonder what new and funny things will happen in 2011. I suppose the old saying, "Seek and ye shall find" applies. We just need to expect and rejoice in the happy things of life.