The parson was leaving the restaurant with his uncle. Ten feet past the doors he heard a call.
“Parson, Parson, hold up a minute.”
The parson turned to see a gentleman, apparently in his fifties, also exiting the establishment, hailing him.
The gentleman extended his arm toward the parson. As the parson extended his to shake hands he noticed the lady following the gentleman. She seemed familiar. The parson shook the gentleman's hand.
“You don't remember me, do you?” the man said.
“I'm sorry,” said the parson, looking at the man and then the lady behind him, “you've got me at a disadvantage.”
“Don't sweat it,” said the man. “It's been a long time. In fact, the last time you saw me was, hmmm, let me think. I guess the last time you saw me was 1974. Yep, that was it. I know that was the year, because that's the year I decided to become a minister.”
The parson nodded. He was a bit confused. Obviously the gentleman had given him a pass on not remembering him. But the “I decided to become a minister” remark intrigued him.
“Back then,” said the gentleman, “I was at your church. I don't remember why I was there. Maybe it was some kind of area meeting or something. But, anyway, I was there. And after the event, whatever it was, was over, I approached you. I told you that I'd been asked to speak as a lay speaker at my church the next Sunday. I said I wanted to preach on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but I didn't know exactly what to say.”
The parson was wracking his brain trying to place the described conversation. He couldn't.
“So, you said to me,” the gentleman continued, “'I love that parable. It's my favorite.' And then you told me why it was your favorite. Do you remember what you told me?”
The parson didn't remember what he told him. The parson didn't remember who the man was.
“You told me that it was your favorite parable because it's the only time in the scripture when God runs. You said that God was in a hurry that day. I loved that. And that next Sunday I preached on that. That was in June of 1974, Parson. In September of 1974 I entered the seminary.”
The parson talked with him for many minutes following. They exchanged stories of churches served, left, and new churches that followed. They talked about the changing church and the challenges of ministry.
When the conversation ended the gentleman said, “I hear you're a retired supply pastor now. I don't know if you're aware but I'm retiring in June. If you don't mind, Susan and I want to come to your church that next Sunday.”
The parson assured him he'd be honored. Soon they left. The parson tucked his uncle's walker into the truck. He turned to Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion, sitting beside him at the rear of the car.
“You know, Charlie,” he said. “Maybe all this has been worth it.”