Do Me A Favor?

by | Jan 18, 2024 | Uncategorized

I was in my mid-twenties when one late Friday afternoon my telephone rang. Reaching for the device mounted on the wall, I placed the handset with its attached spiral cord to my ear and queried into the mouthpiece, “Hello?,” without any clue who may be on the other end.  Back in the days of phones with cords, it was always a surprise to hear who was on the other end. An unfamiliar voice asked to speak with me. I revealed that I was the person he sought, and then he asked for a favor.

This gentleman introduced himself as the new pastor of my hometown congregation, a place where I hadn’t darkened its doorways for quite some time. College and late Saturday night revelry had taken priority in recent years, with Sunday mornings devoted to sleeping off the nights before. Since then, I hadn’t found my way back to church, a nostalgic place that was a source of love and grace that had nurtured my childhood. But one I had long neglected.

Fear overcame me. I braced myself for the wrath of God, which I certainly deserved. The kind voice on the other end of the phone would undoubtedly transition into fire and brimstone, demanding I repent for my many sins and indiscretions. Instead, however, he asked a favor. The minister claimed he was in a predicament, and someone at the church suggested he reach out to me because he understood I could be resourceful—I had connections. This pastor, whom I had never met, explained that the church’s preschool had an open house scheduled for the following Monday. The problem was that the delivery of yards of playground sand had been delayed but unexpectedly showed up that afternoon; they needed to spread the sand beneath the playground equipment before the end of the weekend. They had enough volunteers, but they needed shovels. Could I help secure some on such short notice? I could, and I did.

The next morning, with a plentiful supply of tools for spreading, I showed up. I joined the volunteers, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years, who acted as if I was never on sabbatical from the faith community. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the company of these familiar acquaintances. More surprising was the new pastor I met, who grabbed a shovel and joined the rest of the gang in spreading not only good cheer but sand. There was no fear of God from this man of God. I not only liked him, I was impressed by him. This holy man rolled up his sleeves with everyone else and got to work. He was a REAL guy.

When the work day was complete, all gathered to say goodbye and receive words of thanks. This pastor graciously thanked me, smiled, and asked a question that caught me off guard. “Will I see you tomorrow?” Confused, knowing we completed the task and did not have to return the next day to meet the Monday open house deadline, it didn’t register. Still smiling but adding a chuckle, he clarified, “For worship.”

I nervously returned the next day, as requested. And the following week. And the week after that. It seemed like every time I showed up, this pastor asked for another favor. Someone didn’t show up to usher…would I fill in and read a lesson?…there’s an opening on this committee…next thing I know, I eventually find myself in seminary, being ordained, and serving as a pastor, in the footsteps of my role model. The guy who called one Friday afternoon asking for a favor.

Rev. Christopher G. Hoyer remains my pastoral role model and revered spiritual leader.  Although he often framed requests as favors, they were veiled invitations to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me. In truth, Pastor Hoyer always and continues to do favors for me. I thank God for the guidance and wisdom he provides me today, as much as he did from the day we spread sand on a playground many years ago.

Today, I thank God we didn’t have caller ID years ago when I got a call asking me for a favor. I may not have answered the call.

Can you do me a favor this Sunday, January 21st at 9:30 AM? Join us for worship at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 36 E. John Street, Lindenhurst. You may also want to do us a favor of participating in the Pastoral Installation ceremony on Saturday, January 20th at 2:00 PM.

Blessings, Pastor Marc