When I graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., six years ago, my favorite professor hugged me and said: "Susan, don't worry about anything, just love your parishioners and point them to their savior, and you'll do fine as a parish pastor." I sincerely hoped I could do that. And just as I had expected, loving the people of Sabylund Lutheran Church has been easy.
What I wasn't prepared for when I accepted the call at this rural western Wisconsin parish in Stockholm were the bugs, birds, bats and bees that have tried to attend worship right along with the people of God.
First, a bat flew down from the steeple and settled into the narthex. I grabbed the first parishioner who walked in the door that Sunday and asked him to help. He graciously escorted the bat outside.
Next, I knelt down to plug in a fan near the pulpit on a hot, steamy Sunday (we don't have air conditioning) and placed my hand on a bee that was crawling on the carpet. It stung me hard and fast. My palm began to swell right away. I put the pain aside and continued with worship without too much struggle.
A few weeks ago, a small bird flew into the sanctuary during worship when we left the front door open to allow a summer breeze to blow through the building. It circled overhead during the offering and continued to swoop lower and lower as it tired during the prayers, benediction and final hymn. I left the front door open after everyone left and returned a short time later to learn the bird had exited the same way it entered.
But it was an errant Japanese beetle that flew down the center aisle of the church that upset me most. With uncanny accuracy, it landed right in my mouth when I was leading the liturgy one Sunday morning. After coughing and sputtering a few times, I regained my composure and continued.
As I begin my fourth year of serving the people of Sabylund, I now have a new understanding for these words in Genesis 1:24-25: "And God said: ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind ...' and God saw that it was good."
I pray that God will bless all the creatures that enter our church, and I wonder what animal might come through the door next. I just hope it isn't a snake.
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