I drove my family to my hometown of Mineral Wells yesterday. It may have been five years since my last visit. One of my closest friends since junior high, someone who I attended college with, has been pastoring the same church for twenty years. His congregation wanted to honor him and his wife and invited me to be part of the celebration. Despite being a recovering Baptist (Southern Baptist, specifically) with some very strong convictions, I felt it was more important to set all that aside and simply support and love a friend.
My friend’s father was my childhood pastor. He baptized me, officiated my father’s funeral, and married me and WifeGeeding. I haven’t seen or spoken to him or his wife since my wedding sixteen years ago. It was great running into them in the parking lot and having the opportunity to introduce them to my children. He was the “surprise guest pastor”. It took him a moment to recognize who I was, and at first, I thought he may have lost his marbles as he asked how my mother was, she’s been dead for over thirteen years and his son tells me he updates him on my life frequently. His wife seemed a tad embarrassed and apologized for him even though I took absolutely no offense. He then asked if he officiated my mother’s funeral. Again, no offense taken, but I did start to wonder if he was really going to preach in a few minutes. As it turns out, he was just a bit absent-minded because he was totally in his element delivering a sermon directed to his son and his flock. It was great hearing him preach and brought back a lot of childhood memories and being reminded of certain mannerisms, quirks, idiosyncrasies, which I now see in his son. He’s also great with eye contact which as a youth felt rather intimidating. And, he does this think where he says, “Amen” and expects you to say it back. Because I’m a pessimist, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the very last time I would ever him preach, so I tried to soak it all in.
It’s been an interesting year for pastors in my life. I was celebrating the 20th anniversary of my friend preaching at his church. Our other close friend who is an SBC pastor couldn’t attend because he just accepted a gig near Austin after spending two years out of the ministry and was being introduced to his new church. He’s lived all his life in Mineral Wells and Abilene, so this will be an adjustment. And, earlier this year, the founding pastor of my church retired after 30 years. All of this made me reflect on what pastor have I heard preach the most. I’m not sure if that’s something which goes through a pastor’s mind, at least in those terms, but when you think about the influence a pastor has, it’s pretty significant. I thought it was the pastor of my youth, but when I did the math, it’s my pastor who recently retired.
During the sermon, the most cliche thing happened and I’m not making this up, the pastor quoted Walker Texas Ranger.
Now that the kids are a bit older, they have a little better understanding of what a special trip this was for me. Not just supporting my friend, but seeing my hometown and the places which held major influences my life. I’ll try to write more about it later in the week.
I also tried an experiment with the kids. I wanted to see the trip through their eyes, so I gave them a digital camera and told them to take pictures whenever and whatever they wanted. I’m looking forward to going through them.
My friend’s celebration was held during the Cowboys game. His congregation, bless their hearts, aren’t good planners. But then again, maybe they are since they were playing the Dolphins.