Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Today I met Joe....

Today I began to claim my pastoral identity. I spent the entire afternoon visiting members of the congregation in their homes, and doing this made me feel completely alive. This is not to say that all of it was happy and wonderful, though. When I left one particularly run-down nursing home, I had to swallow hard to keep from crying. There were so many people who were lonely and in need. But Rev. Mark Fentress worked hard to remind me that while we can’t change every situation or keep people from feeling lonely, it is our job to go and visit and bring God’s love to the people.

Meeting Joe was the high point. Joe is a widow of about 85 years old, who still lives independently. I could tell from the minute I stepped into his foyer that he was excited to have a young person come visiting. We chatted and shared bits and pieces about our families. He showed me pictures of his wife and even pulled out the program from when he played football at the University of Alabama. We connected and enjoyed each other greatly. Finally, when it was about time for me to leave, Joe got a serious look on his face and asked, “Well, young lady, when are you going to be preaching?” I told him in a week or so, and he handed me a pen and asked me to write down the details. “I’m going to come and hear what you have to say,” he declared.

How affirming! While some of the Duke interns have no fear of preaching, I must share that I am a bit intimidated. While I trust God to work through me, I also realize that my preparation and insight will play a big part. To hear that someone like Joe is excited to hear a young person (and even a woman!) preach, reminds me of how important and exciting my task is.

I return to my sermon writing with a renewed vigor. While I understand that Joe rarely, if ever, makes it to church, I will write with him in mind. And I just might call Joe and ask if he needs a ride to church on the morning I preach.

To have the opportunity to share hope and God’s love, whether through visitations or preaching, is a wonderful blessing.
I feel blessed that God has called me to spend my entire life doing these things.

1 comment:

Sam Keyes, M.Div. '09 said...

Elaine, that's a really cool story. It's helpful for me to hear it as a reminder of how to be an effective preacher you really need to be a good pastor as well. I suppose there are exceptions (having heard excellent sermons from people who lacked a lot of the care area, and vice versa), but what you're beginning to see here is the familial and holistic character of church ministry. The important thing is not so much that you're an amazing preacher--or that you are an amazing pastoral presence--but that you are faithful to family that is the church.