I started second grade in the fall of 1971. Clinton was new to me, as was football, but I was learning. Every day at recess we played “kill the man with the ball,” and Andy Walker was “Larry Csonka.” After getting killed a good many times when Andy had the ball (which is not how that game is supposed to be played!), I learned that Larry wasn’t actually Andy’s imaginary friend. The real Csonka played for a team called the Miami Dolphins, who had a pretty good season that year. (They won 17 games, including a game called the “Super Bowl.”)
As if anyone needed to be told, Andy was going to be a professional football player. As for me, I penned this little rhyme:
I want to be a preacher. I think it would be fun
To study every morning before the rising sun,
To stand up in the pulpit and preach before the crowd,
Then you think I wouldn’t – oh, yes, I would be proud!
Andy has been very successful, even though he didn’t go on to play pro ball.
Meanwhile...I’m living the dream!
Ironically I do write all my sermons in the dark. I prepare all week, but get up before the sun on Sundays. (The goal is to finish writing before 11:00am!) Though it’s probably the most visible part of the job, the hours of preparation and writing are only a fraction of what I do...
The phone rang last week and someone cried, “There’s a snake in Ober’s bathtub – HELP!” At 102 Ober is our oldest church member – and still one of our most beautiful females! She spent years in Iran, and her house is a virtual museum of ancient Persia. During our last capital campaign she donated her car, an Olds Cutlass she bought new in 1984. When we found a buyer, exchanging 34 years of trips to the grocery store for a sanctuary HVAC system, the odometer showed 35,000 miles!
Though she was born in 1915, Ober still lives alone. Two nieces were visiting when someone spotted the serpent. Quick – call the preachers! The nieces were pacing the living room. Ober was in the bathroom, “holding down the snake.” Sure enough, it was under her foot – all 8 (wicked) inches worth. I put it out in the flower garden, and we got a good laugh that now I can add “snake handling” to my resume.
I love this job. And... a few years ago someone had a cat to die. It’s a long story, but in the end, donning my favorite grave-digging tie, I sweated my way through a 98-degree afternoon, finally scratching out a hole deep enough to send kitty on to see Jesus.
And... my uncle owns a backhoe, so our children's annual “Tractor day with Russ” is one of my favorite ministries. And... there was the day the guy needed his glasses fixed. I just happened to have brought my soldiering iron to the office! And... the day the elderly member called to see if we could change her husband’s ostomy bag. (Yes, really. You can’t make this stuff up!) And don’t tell me it was a “coincidence” that our deacon, the hospice nurse, stopped by before we could Google “What is an ostomy bag? And how, exactly, do you change one?”
Did I say I love this job!?
It’s the best profession in the world. I’m invited to participate in some of people’s most intimate moments – funerals, births, tragedies, celebrations, baptisms, marriages. I get to offer a regular commentary on life and culture, humbly imagining what God might be trying to say to each moment. There are retreats and socials and mission opportunities here and abroad, new relationships and developing ones. And there are tractors and snakes and the most unimaginable requests – which people make because they trust you.
Yes, I love this job. It may even be better than playing professional football.