This week I had a full schedule on my calendar but three times I have been reminded that my time is not my own and that we all need to be available for sudden shifts that God places in our path. In contrast to the everyday scheduling that we do for ourselves, we sometimes call these shifts “divine appointments.”
Tuesday I had planned to spend the morning working in our church office and I did. Our morning was unremarkable. In the afternoon, after I had attended our local Rotary Club meeting I had made two appointments with shut-ins from our congregation and I planned to visit the hospital in my capacity as the hospital chaplain (several of us take turns volunteering at Barnesville Hospital and Tuesday is my day). I got caught finishing a project in the office and I started later than I had intended but in my mind I still thought that I could accomplish all of my visitation before returning home for dinner.
Whenever the weather is good I try to walk for as much as I can and so, since my first visit with Roy and June was only a few blocks away I set out on foot. While I had made an appointment with June the previous week, I briefly wondered if I should call just in case something had changed, bust again, since it was only a few blocks, I shrugged off my doubts and set out anyway. When I arrived at my destination I knocked on the door and was met by Roy and June’s daughter. She thanked me for coming but told me that June had not slept well the night before and was now asleep in the afternoon. She thanked me again and asked if I could come back next week. I assured her that it was no problem and, since the weather was lovely, set out immediately for the hospital.
I was hardly across the street before I discovered that God had other plans.
As soon as I had crossed the street, I encountered two older gentlemen, one wearing an Air Force baseball cap and the other an Army cap. As we passed one another they asked if I wasn’t a pastor. I wasn’t terribly surprised since, living in a small town, I am often recognized by people that I don’t know. When I said that I was, they asked which church I belonged to and I told them. Our conversation lasted far longer than I would have expected. We talked about church and the military. They told me of their military service and I told them about mine. They told me of their other relatives who had served and so did I. Although I have been out of the Army Reserve for nearly twenty years, my service offered a place for us to connect as we spoke on the sidewalk. I learned that one of these men had recently had some difficulty and these two men, brothers, were moving in together not far, they hoped, from our church. Both men said that they had been away from the church for a long time and had felt a need to return. Before we went our separate ways, both men said that I should expect to see them in church within the next few weeks.
My hospital rounds were, for the most part, uneventful and I then proceeded to my appointment to visit with Irene. When I arrived at Irene’s house I she did not answer the door. This is not unusual as she cannot always hear the doorbell and so I knocked again, and even shouted but I could not attract her attention. Since I was unable to visit I left a note and a copy of last week’s sermon and headed for home. Within minutes of my arrival the doorbell rang and I found at our door another member of our church. She had been scheduled for surgery in Pittsburgh the next day and I had planned to visit her there. Instead, she told me that they had scheduled her for a very early time slot and because of the early hour and because of our distance from Pittsburgh they were leaving almost immediately and would stay in a hotel overnight. Since they live close to us, I walked home with her, visited for a short while and prayed with both she and her husband before they left.
Had Irene answered her door, I would not have been home and would surely have missed this important appointment. Had June slept through the night I would surely have missed meeting and visiting with the brothers who were feeling a call to return to church.
Yesterday, a couple who had been living together called our church office in the morning and asked if I could marry them in the afternoon. This doesn’t often happen (okay, it’s never happened to me before) but my schedule was free (except for my plans to write a sermon for Sunday) and since they only desired to be married in my office, there was no need to clean the sanctuary or disturb the custodian. As it turned out, this couple had been living together for a number of years and had decided that now seemed to be a good time to get married.
Every day we schedule the ordinary.
Once in a while, God reminds us that our time does not belong to us.
Once in a while our carefully crafted schedule is disrupted so that we can be present in times and in places that God has scheduled. We must watch and be ready for a few “divine appointments” instead or being frustrated at the perceived disruption.
If we are ready, our disruption will be transformed into blessing.
I pray that each of you will be open to these sorts of disruptions so that you too can be blessed by catching a glimpse of God’s bigger picture.