I have some friends who use the term “God sightings,” and I kind of like it. I especially like it to describe a recent moment.
On Fathers’ Day, I was a little down. I missed my Dad, who died 3 ½ years ago. I wanted to hear his voice, but that was obviously not possible.
I decided to busy myself straightening my office. In one corner was a box. An unopened box, which had arrived several months ago and had gotten tucked away and forgotten.
I opened the box and found two books. Two Bibles. They had been my Dad’s, and my step-mom had sent them to me. The first Bible had an inscription, “26 January 1983 To Dad, Happy Birthday! With love, Joanne.”
I do not remember giving him that Bible, but I sure remember loving him! On one of the cover pages was a list of verses, so I looked them up, one by one, thinking about what that passage would have meant to my dad, and why he would have listed it as an important one.
Then I started reading some of the other passages that were marked, and I thought about the thousands of Sunday school classes he sat through, and the thousands of sermons he had listened to in his life, seeking to better know and understand God’s word.
I thought about him hauling me off to Sunday school when I was little, and about how my brother, sister and I all knew that if we were too sick to go to church, then we were too sick to play outside or play with friends and we were even too sick to watch television that day.
It was pretty much a case of “fog a mirror, go to church” at our house. Sports, family time, scouts, school work, music lessons — all of those were important in our family. But they never took the place of Sunday school and worship.
Indeed, church was “family time,” when the church family gathered.
I didn’t get to hear his voice that day, but thumbing through that Bible became a conversation with my Dad.
Then I picked up the other Bible. No inscription in that one. Not a lot of markings throughout the text. No list of verses inside the cover, but there was a list of hymns. His favorite hymns.
And so I sang those hymns. From memory — remember? Church every week, without fail? You learn the hymns — and I remembered my Dad singing them, with his big, deep voice.
And tucked in the Bible were three things. The bulletin from my ordination, the bulletin from my installation at my first church — both from 1982 — and a note with a prayer from the prayer group at Grace, from 2008, before he died.
My dad wasn’t super excited when I told him that I was thinking about going to seminary. And he wasn’t sure about it when I told him that I was moving towards ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
And after my ordination, I overheard someone saying, “You must be very proud of Joanne,” and he replied (sternly), “I’m proud of all my children.”
But 30 years later, the bulletin from that day was still in his Bible. And the card from Grace, sent just before he died, connecting him to my life and ministry, was right there with it.
A God sighting, indeed.