Oh, wait, I grew up in town (yes, Iowa does have towns)--and this was very obvious to me today.
I arrived at church first, being the new pastor on her first day and all. I pulled up the gravel drive in my Texas Cadillac (no longhorns on the front, however; that's how you can tell that neither the Caddie nor I am really from Texas); got out of the car, and unlocked the cattle gate. That's when it hit me, for about the third time this week: I am doing rural ministry.
I opened the door, and checked the floor immediately for any critters that may be skittering, or slithering (God forbid!) across the floor. [I've never seen any, but apparently in October a snake was carried into the church in a plant that had been sitting outside during the week. I've already warned them that if I disappear suddenly they should look for me in Wisconsin, as I probably saw a SNAKE INSIDE the church and had to depart immediately.] Coast was clear-- that was all fine.
As I was greeting people near the door, I noticed a large shaggy animal approaching down the driveway, and I thought, "Wow, there's a pony coming to church". Now, of course I knew it couldn't be a pony, but hey, we're sort of out in the country, so you never know. In fact it was a large red furry dog, who belonged to members who live across the street. They had walked to church, so the dog followed. One of their sons had to take her back home. She was a nice enough dog, but not everyone wants to be greeted by a shaggy pony/dog when they arrive at worship, not even when you share your space with a veterinarian clinic, as we do.
So, all the laughter aside (well, not all of it; it was a JOYFUL morning)--my first Sunday as Pastor of Living Word Lutheran Church in Beautiful Buda Texas was wonderful. There was a fullish house (about 50, I guess) with several visitors who *should* have been elsewhere (members in other congregations) who were there to support me on my first day. The energy was positive and palpable, the music was rolling off the piano, the singing was jubilant, and the preaching...well, you know how I preach. It all felt good and right and was a great start. The congregation often says, "God has begun a good thing here" and indeed, today a good thing was begun, and it was all about God.
Wow, it is amazing how good it is for my soul for me to have the time and place to BE a pastor. I've long maintained it's what God made me to be, and it seems still to be true. Thanks be to God! I think of that in my rural place (with all those thousands of homes going in around me) as I look out the office windows and see cactus and scrub trees--no roads, no traffic, no buildings visible from that side. This is where, and who, I am to be.