The man in the pulpit was young. He was about to preach his first sermon in his first church. He had bought a new suit at Pennys. The pin stripes were white against blue. The congregation, about 25 in size, sat to hear what words would come from God through this new servant in town. The morning came and went. As people walked away from the church the deacon’s wife reminded the preacher that dinner would not start until he got there. Others shook the preachers hand and spoke with him about the coming week.
Once everyone had left the church the preacher locked the doors, got in his car, and drove to the deacon’s home. The young preacher was asked to sit next to the deacon. Then other members of the family sat down around the table. At the dinner table the conversation centered on how life was different in such a small town. The deacon’s wife then added that the church had intentionally invited young men to be their pastor. The hope was that these young men could get a good start in their ministry. She then shared how she felt that a small rural church could help the kingdom of God advance by being there for new preachers. The church was safe for new preachers. She then added that she felt small churches did not have throngs of people and great opportunities for advancement so good preachers’ didn’t want to stay.
The young preacher listened. He heard stories of others who had come before him. He heard stories about how the town was shrinking and the kids were growing up without jobs and new opportunities. He learned how the kids had to find jobs elsewhere. Then he shared some stories about having lived in the projects back in the cities. He told stories of having been raised in a poor background and was just happy to be at the church. Even though it was going to be different the young preacher was confident that this was a way to test the “call.” Did God really call him, or was it just something he wanted to do? The table conversation was a lot of fun. People laughed, told stories and laughed more.
The potatoes were almost gone. The vegetables were disappearing and everyone had finished a steak. Dessert was about to be served when all of a sudden a loud sound was heard over everyone else. The table talk stopped. Just as suddenly the deacon abruptly rose to his feet, took off his suit jacket, put on his ranch coat and ran out the door. The preacher sat stunned. What was happening? The deacon’s wife then broke the silence and explained that it was about to begin calving season. It was early and this one heifer was having problems. They had brought her close to the house so they could hear if there were any complications. She explained that they were afraid the calf would come breach. The preacher had little to no idea what was happening. He asked if he could go out. The deacon’s wife warned him that it wasn’t the best thing if he had a weak stomach. The young preacher believed everything would be okay. He then ran out the door totally prepared to know that nothing could faze him. After all, he had seen a lot in the projects.
He soon discovered he was not prepared for what was happening. The deacon was on his knees. He had made the heifer as comfortable as possible. He had removed his coat. He had rolled up his sleeves. He was just waiting. The preacher asked, “What was happening?” The deacon said “I have to go inside the mother and turn the calf.” The preacher asked, in where? “In there,” the deacon said. “If I don’t, we may lose the calf and the mother.” The preacher was not prepared. He just stood there, his mouth could not respond, there were no words as he watched the deacon begin the task in front of him. He reached in, turned the calf and gently helped the calf to enter a new world. Once the calf was delivered the heifer stood up, walked away and refused to even recognize the calf was there. The deacon tried everything possible to bring the calf to life. The calf did not respond. The deacon said, “At least we saved the mother.”
The young preacher just stood there. What should he do? What could he do? The deacon said, “Sometimes this happens.” The deacon began to walk toward the house. For what seemed the longest time the preacher just stood there. The silence was then broken. “We have to do something,” the preacher yelled. The deacon stopped, turned, and said “What do you want to try?” The preacher dropped to his knees, looked to the deacon and said “we can’t stop.” He held the calf’s mouth shut and began to blow into the nostrils of the calf. The deacon joined the preacher. The deacon lifted the calf and continued to massage the calf. “Keep blowing,” the deacon said. The preacher just kept blowing; first one nostril then the other. Then all of a sudden the calf kicked. The deacon jumped away. The preacher fell back. His new suit totally baptized in the blood and mud where the calf had been just a moment before. The calf looked for its mother. The mother was gone. The preacher was about to begin a part of a new calling. He was now the adopted parent of a newborn calf he named Jasper.
The following Sunday the preacher stood at the pulpit. The suit was now smudged and looked somewhat worn. The sermon ended with a story about how God gives life. God gives each of us breath. Our calling is not to keep that life to ourselves but to breath life into the world around us.