On Thursday morning, I got an email from a member of my congregation, telling me that she was transferring her membership to another congregation. She had prayed long and hard, she said, but she wanted to go "where her gifts were appreciated."
It was not the best beginning to the morning. I emailed her back saying that I understood, and that I did appreciate her gifts. Still, the content of the email followed me around for awhile, whispering doubts in my ears.
Later on, I called the daughter-in-law of a woman who was in hospice. The hospice care facility had called the day before, saying that the family requested a pastoral visit. They said I should get in touch with the woman's daughter-in-law first, which I did. So I called and got directions to their house.
I've been here about a year now, but I still don't know all parts of the community where I live. This was in an area of town where I had not been before, so I used both verbal directions and my car's GPS and found the cottage where this elderly woman and her husband lived.
I went in, and introduced myself to the man and his wife, explaining that his daughter-in-law had called me. I found out that the wife was from Germany. "I found her and I brought her back to Texas," he told me. He had been Baptist, but she made a Lutheran out of him. After that, he said he had held every leadership position in the church, except for pastor. He always wanted to be a pastor. I sat by the bed of his wife, and we talked a little bit about their lives. They had lived in Texas for a long time, but were new to this community. Their daughter-in-law came over, and joined the conversation. I could tell that this was a family who looked out for one another. I asked if the husband and daughter-in-law also wanted communion. They both said yes.
We talked a little bit about the church where I serve. The daughter-in-law was familiar with it, in fact had attended for awhile. They were members when it was a larger and livelier place, about the time when her children were small and the day care was just opening. I said it was smaller now, and that it was my job to build it up again.
She said, "Well, you have the right personality for that."
I don't know why she said that. We had known each other for about 20 minutes. I immediately felt a small voice, a tiny piece of hope, for no reason. I felt for a moment that perhaps I could do the work to which I had been called, in this place far from my home.
We began the communion service. The daughter-in-law knew the words of the confession by heart. I read from John 10, about the gate, and the shepherd, and the one who knows our names, and whose voice we know, and who leads us out, and in, to find pasture.
We prayed together. We shared the bread and the wine. We shared words of blessing.
The husband told me again that he had held every job in the church, except the pastor. I told him that all of those others jobs were important ones. They were callings from God.
I told them if they needed anything, they could call.
And the words of the conversation followed me around for a while, whispering in my ear, reminding me about the shepherd whose voice I follow, even though I do not know exactly where He will take me, and who has brought me here.