In the last week and a half I have had two very interesting conversations with complete strangers. Both conversations were fun and, to me at least, informative.
The first conversation was about ten days ago when I was in a large group of people participating in a community event. The nice thing about the event was that it was not a church event–but a community event. That meant I was not leading it and I was not “on” as pastor. Instead, I was just a citizen in the community at the event. A senior adult woman sat down next to me, because the room we were in was very crowded and we began to talk. She asked me what I do for a living and I said, “I pastor a church.” That was followed by “which church,”and “where is your church,” and so forth.
The woman informed me that she went to church, but that she was looking for a new one. She told me which one she went to and I told her, “I know that church, it is a good one,” and I went on to share my philosophy of never saying anything bad about another church and having no desire to take people from other congregations. She said, “I understand that, but I could never be at your church.”
Well, now my curiosity was piqued and I asked matter-of-factly “Why?” She said, “Because I know your church and you believe that only the pastor, only you, can baptize.” I giggled and said, “I assure you, that is not the case.” I went on to tell her of my long standing and publicly stated belief that if anyone leads someone else to have a relationship with Jesus, and they all agree on it, then I’ll let the leader do the baptizing. I talked to her for a few minutes at sacerdotalism, without using that word of course, and how our church did not have a sacerdotal view at all. We talked for a few more minutes and then she said, “Well, then I might visit your church then. Your service starts at 10, right?”
“No, we have two, one at 9:30 and one at 11,” I said.
She looked at me and said, “No, your services are at 10. I see it on the sign all the time.”
“Where is this sign?”
She told me where, and then I discovered she was talking about another church and she had never fully understood which church I was from. She wasn’t at church the last two Sundays, because I’ve been looking. Maybe she went back to her church. I hope so.
The second conversation I had was with a woman at the auto dealership where I was getting Mrs. Greenbean’s Altima serviced last Thursday. She worked at the service desk and had come out to tell me the car was almost ready. There was another woman, a senior adult woman there, and she gave her a report on her car too. The woman from the dealership began making small talk about some of the funny things she’d seen people do with their cars and the self inflicted problems people had done to their automobiles. I replied something like, “Well, when you work with the public your going to see strange and odd things.” She then said, “What do you do.” Again, I replied, “I’m a pastor.” The three of us there in the lobby continued making small talk and discovered that none of us were from the Northwest. The older woman was from Minnesota. She had moved out here in the 1930’s. The service specialist was from New York City.
I asked her why she relocated here from the big city. She said one of the pulls to the Northwest was the rock climbing. She enjoyed it. She said it was “mentally demanding.” I questioned her about that and said something like, “That surprises me, because I would guess rock climbing is physically demanding, not mentally demanding.” She said, “Well, it is like a giant life-sized puzzle, so your mind gets quite a workout.” I then said, “It sure sounds like hard work.”
That is when she surprised me again by saying, “It is, but if you have a good partner to hep you get through the hard spots, it is very rewarding.” Now that is an amazing statement. My mind raced toward my partner in life– Mrs. Greenbean and the truth of how wonderful marriage is. I would never be able to navigate life’s difficulties without her. But I also thought about the idea of Christ as my partner in life. He is more than a partner, and more than a friend–he is my Lord, my master, my God but he comes to me also as a friend. He comes to me as a partner to navigate the really tough parts of life.
Sometime after Easter I have a sermon planned on marriage–I’ll have to remember that conversation and tell that story again.