Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church, Amhert, NY
When you’re a pastor all conversations eventually work their way back to faith. Whether you’re at the bar, at home, at a coffee shop or on vacation, when folks discover what you do the talk immediately veers towards Jesus (or more specifically, towards the complicated, political nature of church). And so it was this morning, while getting a haircut that the chat eventually turned to God.
“Did you always know you were called?” she asked.
“Not really,” I replied. “I mean, I kind of knew.”
“So there wasn’t like some big moment?”
“Actually, it was more like lots of little moments.”
For the next 10 minutes I listened to her entire life story – her struggles with Catholicism, her daughter’s Pentecostal boyfriend, her frustrations and doubts about God. However, when I left the building it was my story I started thinking of. Why am I a pastor? Why was I called? When did I really know? Was there a big moment?
The closest thing I can think of that resembles anything like a big moment happened at a large church meeting. I was 15 or 16 and found myself at a youth event that ran in conjunction with the annual gathering for Lutheran churches in Upstate New York. I was in the back row passing notes with girls and counting the minutes until dinner (I thought a lot about girls and food back then, some things never change).
I took a look around the room and noticed a few of the pastors I knew as a child and teen (not the least of which were Rusty May and Billy Banks from First in Jamestown). I saw men and women I had come to admire, respect and look up to and I thought to myself: I think I could do that… I think I could be a pastor.
In that moment I felt like God punched me in the heart. I honestly felt like the Spirit of God was resting on me. I was filled with a sense of hope, joy and optimism unlike anything I’ve experienced before or since. I had this glimpse – this picture in my head – of me today, of me as a pastor. A few days later I went home.
I told my family what happened and what I wanted to do with my life. They laughed. I told my friends. They mocked. I told my girlfriend at the time. She thought I was crazy. Many of the people closest to me sought to push me in “other” directions. And so, I wrote this experience off. I didn’t walk away from the call (obviously), I just didn’t make too much of it. Even now I am reluctant to call it that “big moment”.
In scripture we are told young men will see visions. We are told that old men will dream dreams. We are promised that God’s Spirit will come and it will rest on us. We are assured that God’s Spirit will empower us and enable us to move forward with faith and forgiveness. Unfortunately, in the same way, scripture also shows us that those experiences will often be met with doubt and skepticism – that there will be those who seek to throw water on our flame and douse our hope.
As a young man I was apologetic about that Spirit experience, but I’m older now. I’m done making apologies. God’s Spirit has been poured out into this world and day-by-day, moment-by-moment God is calling and claiming us as sons and daughters. So if you’re young, embrace the vision of hope for your future. If you’re old, dream big for God is with you. Do not silence or stifle the prophecy of your sons and daughters, for it just may be God’s Spirit speaking through them. And always remember:
“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon ALL flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
In that Spirit,
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.