‘You wouldn’t be the Episcopal priest, would you?” The question caught me off guard. I was coming out of Midway Pizza when he appeared out of nowhere. I had never seen him before. He was in his seventies and dressed in a floral shirt and shorts. The thought hit me that he might be looking for a handout. It was a good line if he was. Who wouldn’t want to be identified as a priest?

I paused and said, “No. I am not. I’m actually the pastor of the Baptist Church.” He said, “You’ll do!” He went on to tell me that all he wanted was an hour of my time. I looked at my watch. I was already late for a meeting. The whole day had been like a marathon. I was running from one thing to the next since I left the house that morning. I told him to come by the church in an hour and we could chat. He agreed and I was off to my next appointment.

I couldn’t shake this feeling that this wasn’t just a chance encounter. I didn’t know how the fellow picked me out as being clergy. I wasn’t dressed for the part. I was wearing a polo shirt and pants. I wasn’t wearing a collar. I looked like anyone else on the street. When I mentioned it to a friend, he laughed and said, “It must have been the halo!” I laughed too. Then I thought about the fact that you don’t have to have a halo for God to use you.

We get the idea that God only uses people who are talented. The opposite is often true. God will use anyone with a willing heart. He sends us out to minister in his name. You see, life is hard. God promises that when life gets tough, he will be with us. Sometimes he sits with us in our pain. At other times, God fulfills that promise by sending you and me. That’s what happened the other day. The man I met outside the pizza shop had been through a difficult time.

He’d lost his wife, had recently moved, and felt that everything was falling apart around him. He asked the question we all ask when our lives are turned upside down: “Where is God when we need him most?” He wanted to talk to someone. He picked me. I sat down and listened to him unload his burden. The crazy thing is I wasn’t supposed to be there. Yet, due to some unexpected delays and fortuitous twists, I showed up at the right time.

As we prayed together, I knew it wasn’t just a coincidence that we bumped into each other. The whole day had been orchestrated so that I could be where I was needed. That’s what God does. He sends out into the world as his hands and feet, his ears and eyes. We are the body of Christ. He sends us out to be with his people to let them know that God cares.

So don’t be surprised if someone mistakes you for a priest. When they show up, do what you are called to do. Serve the Lord by letting them know you care. Take time to listen, to share God’s love and to pray with them. Then give all the glory to God.

The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.

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