I’m going to alienate my liberal friends, or at least lead them to question just how dedicated a liberal I am. The story starts out in a way that may have you asking, “Where is he going with this?” but, please, stick with me. Everything is relevant.
My older daughter ‘Chelley has been friends with Christina ever since they were young 1980s children. After school their lives took individual paths, as most lives do, and, while ‘Chelley stayed here in the U. S., Christina married a gent from New Zealand. They live there today.
Some five or six years ago Christina and her hubby had a baby. They asked me if I would baptize him. No, they didn’t want me to travel to New Zealand. Rather, they returned to the States where Christina’s family lived, and I baptized the baby in New Jersey.
Their son is now old enough to be starting school. They wanted him to go to a private Christian school. The school required proof of baptism. They couldn’t find their son’s baptism certificate and emailed me to ask if I could supply proof of the baptism. I could. I sent a duplicate certificate to them by way of the fastest means I could afford, and all was well.
Not too long after that I received a package in the mail from New Zealand. Inside was a really nice necktie with a fun aspect as well: it showed a sheep wearing a green necktie! I could tell by the quality of the tie that it was a high-end garment. The fact that it was made in — and came from — New Zealand qualified it (in my mind, anyway) as “imported.”
I decided to wear the tie to church this past Sunday (Jan. 5th). I tend not to wear ties much any more, so this was a special occasion. I walked into the building and someone asked if I were preaching that day (based solely on the fact that I was more “dressed up” than usual)! I assured her that I was not — I was going to be playing guitar with the praise band, just like every Sunday.
It was no more than a few seconds later that John, a member of the church’s Staff-Parish Relations Team, came up to me and said, “Do you have an extra sermon in that little black book you carry?” That’s when I found out that our pastor was ill and not coming in that morning. I learned very quickly that I was, in fact, going to be leading both worship services, flying totally by the seat of my pants!
That’s also when I saw God’s hand at work: God knew that the pulpit would be vacant that morning and had already prepared the way for me to step in and fill the gap. I have to admit that, with some helpful cues from John, the “message” came off quite well. All I did was read the three scripture lessons our pastor had already selected and pulled out the portions that bound those scriptures together (in this case, the prophecies in Isaiah concerning the arrival of the magi at Jesus’ birth, the actual story of their arrival in the Gospel according to Matthew, and Paul’s interpretation of the event in Ephesians [namely, the confirmation that the Gospel has been given to Gentiles as well as to Jews]).
The tie from New Zealand set the stage for me to be prepared to lead worship, unbeknownst to me at the time. And I believe that God was leading the process the whole way.
Pretty conservative of me, isn’t it?