In a light-hearted moment this afternoon I took a picture of a page in my Greek New Testament and shared it on Facebook. In preparing to preach next Sunday I had read something in a commentary on the passage and so I went back to the Greek to see if the English translation I was working from accurately conveyed what it said in the Greek.
In my Facebook post I mentioned that my New Testament Greek was pretty poor but that today I was able to read the part I was checking. A friend from high school read my post and asked where I learned to read Greek. And I replied that two semesters of Greek were required in seminary, noting that they were my most challenging classes, and adding that if I had any idea in high school that one day I would be a pastor then I would have done a whole lot of things differently.
I could make a detailed list of things that I passed on in high school, over 40 years ago, that would have made a difference in my current vocation today. But, ultimately, to what end?
If I had done those things at that time, and then gone directly to college, and then directly to seminary, what kind of pastor would I be today? Or what kind of pastor would I have been then?
That route would have skipped the four years I spent in the US Navy, and though I did not know it at the time the Navy prepared me for college in ways that nothing in high school ever would have. The Navy also gave me some life experiences that have been invaluable here.
That route would have skipped the 27 years I worked at Mayo Clinic. Much like the Navy my time at Mayo also prepared me to serve as a pastor in Dulce, again in ways that I wouldn't have seen at the time.
And I don’t serve as a pastor in Dulce on some sort of fluke. There was a very intentional process that brought me here. Many references were checked, several interviews were held. Three different groups gave their endorsement. There were many opportunities to consider my strengths and weaknesses, my experience and lack thereof, before the church in Dulce called me to serve them.
Could I have been better prepared to pastor here? Or anywhere, for that matter? Certainly in some ways, but perhaps at a cost that would have serious disadvantages in other ways.
The fact is that this is the place, this is the time, and I am the one called to serve here in a particular way. I know some of my strengths, and some of my weaknesses, and I'm working in both areas.
Could I be better prepared? Absolutely. But that doesn't excuse me from using the gifts God has given me for this time, this place and these people to His glory.
Those basic truths of time, place and person are true of all Christians. And so I encourage you to use your particular gifts in the place where you are at, to God's everlasting glory. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.