It’s been a long week. A stressful week. The kind of week that wears at your patience and sinks your attitude. I love my work. Love it. But the quacking ducks that make a lot of noise and peck from behind seemed unstoppable all week, to the point that I dreaded going back into the office for the last several days.
My church served as a neutral pulpit today for a ministry candidate who was preaching for a pastor nominating committee from another church. Thank goodness for that, since I honestly don’t know how I could have produced any kind of sermon this week except maybe one entitled “Damn Those Ducks.” I’m not sure that would have been a good idea.
On this Sunday morning, when my spirits were low, I was given some beautiful moments of grace. I was reminded of all I have to make me thankful.
* I am thankful to be where I am in ministry. This particular candidate has been searching for a call for over a year now. I have another friend from another presbytery who has been searching for about that same length of time. A colleague nearby has been searching for several months, with no luck. I remember all too well what it feels like to need a call to a church. It hasn’t been so long since I was in that same boat. With all that is going on within the denomination – major changes, disagreements, rumors of churches leaving the denomination – most churches are just waiting it out to see what actually comes about with all that is taking place. It is indeed a blessing not only to have a call, but one where I truly love the people and they love me. (Well, maybe except for a duck or two.)
* PNCs (pastor nominating committees) stand out like sore thumbs when they visit a congregation. Anyone who knows anything about the call process in this denomination can spot a committee within 2 minutes of their arrival. I made my way to greet this particular committee before worship began. I noticed that one of my members was already there, greeting them. I introduced myself and welcomed them, and noted that I saw they were already receiving a welcome from D. D just laughed and said, “I came to welcome them, and then to tell them that if they were here to listen to you they just needed to go on out the door right now!” Can I just say what a wonderful, warming compliment that was?! I didn’t feel the sting from all the ducks’ pecks anymore.
* Shortly after that, M, our resident greeter and head usher who is in his 80’s, brought me a small journal that had a picture of a starfish on it, along with the story about the girl who walked along the beach throwing starfish back into the surf. When someone stopped her to tell her that there were too many starfish for her efforts to make a difference, the girl scooped up another starfish, threw it into the surf, and replied, “Made a difference to that one.” I asked him how he knew that I frequently walk the beach and throw starfish back in the ocean – because I really do. He said, “Oh, I didn’t know that, I just know you make a difference here. Every Sunday. The story makes me think of you and I want you to keep the journal.” Dear God, how I needed to hear that! By this time I couldn’t even hear the quack of the ducks anymore.
* I was more than happy to share the pulpit with another preacher/worship leader, but I was antsy. I missed leading worship. I was excited that while I wasn’t preaching, I was doing the baptism of a precious 14-month-old boy. Before worship, as I talked one last time to the parents about exactly what would be happening, I encouraged little C to play in the water. 14 months is old enough to put up a pretty big protest, so I wanted him to be as comfortable with me and the water as possible. During the actual baptism, I would have to say that he was the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. When I looked at him as I talked about baptism, he looked right back as though he was taking in every word. And when I actually baptized him, he reached down and splashed in the water and squealed with delight. We all got showered, which was perfect because I really needed a tangible remembrance of my baptism and call today.
Ducks? What ducks? There were no ducks at church today. Just grace – and lots of it.