Pastoral Meanderings: A Reflection for Memorial Day

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

On Sunday morning, Mark and Earlene Shadburn got to work with mops and towels and shop vacs to clean up a small flood in our Sunday School rooms after Saturday night’s heavy rain.

It was the kind of thing that could have been a HUGE crisis. But Mark and Earlene knew just what to do. You can imagine how grateful I was that they were there.

In twenty years, the church has never flooded. We have our fingers crossed that this was a one-time event that won’t happen again. As of Thursday—and after more rain—we’re still dry.

On Monday, Judy Brandon and Virginia Land met with a new intern who will help lead our summer lunch program. She’s a college student who is donating her summer to us, and she’s going to be great!

On Tuesday, I traveled back and forth to Macon for a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) of Georgia meeting. I got to see my brother while I was there. He met me in the parking lot of the CBF offices during a break. As I turned around from his truck to head back inside, I saw Ben’s pastor, Scott, also at the meeting, peering through the window at us, making faces. We all laughed.

On Wednesday, Kay and Davis Byrd stopped by the church to pick up the flowers they had provided for worship last Sunday. I, however, had already taken the flowers to a nursing home on Monday to give to one of our members who was supposed to have been transferred there from the hospital.

When I got to the nursing center, though, I couldn’t find her. So I just walked around in circles, feeling a bit like an idiot with this big arrangement of flowers in my hand and no one to give them to. I joked with the nurses that I’d been stood up for the prom.

I never found Cathy there. In fact, as I write this I’m still not sure which care facility she’s in. I’ve been telling people she’s gone missing. This is what you would call a pastoral failure!

I’m sure she’s safe or I wouldn’t joke about it. But I would like to know where she is.

Not finding Cathy, I got back in the car and took the flowers to a home-bound member whom I hadn’t seen in far too long. Her middle-aged son was out front cleaning up the yard in a light drizzle when I got there. Our eyes met as I walked to the door. He shrugged and said, “You gotta do it when you can find the time.”

I went inside and put the flowers on the kitchen table. Sue was most grateful.

On Wednesday when I told Kay what I’d done with the flowers, she gasped. I smiled. “I didn’t take your vase,” I said. “It’s in the kitchen.” She let out a deep breath and laughed. It’s a pretty fancy vase.

Also on Wednesday, our lunchtime Bible study group met for the last time before our summer break. On Wednesdays, four faithful ladies and I—along with some others who come and go—eat lunches together that we bring from home. As we sit around a table in fellowship hall eating our sandwiches and chips, we talk about our families and share concerns about our friends. And then we talk about the Bible.

It’s so simple, it’s refreshing. It might be the best part of my week.

This Wednesday, we wrapped up a survey of the New Testament by giving the book of Revelation our best shot—at least the best we could do in thirty minutes or so. I’d say we didn’t do half bad.

On Thursday morning, Karen was there when I got to church.  She was just finishing cleaning up the office. Did you know she’s the best church custodian anyone could ask for? It was the last day of school, so I asked her if her family was ready for summer. “Yes,” she said. “We’ve just survived the first year of middle school.”

“That’s no small feat,” I responded. And it’s not.

I spent Thursday evening eating barbecue on Joan Denney’s back porch with her HERITAGE Home Group. Then we had banana pudding before going inside to talk about a book the group’s been studying together.

As we talked, Harry Johnston made a joke that had all of us roaring with laughter. One day I’ll share it with you. The whole evening was wonderful.

We can choose to look back on our weeks (or years) and remember the stress and uncertainty—maybe an argument we had or plans that fell through or a project that didn’t get executed as well as we'd hoped. We can remember sleepless nights, overwhelming responsibilities and unexpected bills.

Or, we can remember the moments that give meaning and joy to life. As you pause this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you’ll do the latter.  

Remember the short interactions with co-workers, passers-by, family members and friends. An exchange at the grocery store. A phone call. A chance encounter at the restaurant. An evening with your Bible study group. A kind word. An act of service. A smile. A moment of shared laughter.

Each individual encounter may seem small at the time, but collectively, they make up the story of our lives. We have much for which to be grateful.

See you Sunday.