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I hate it when my sweat will not stay out of my eyes.
There are times when I wonder exactly why I do this. The endless meals of fried chicken around tables of today's friends and stories about their adorable kid's, or grandkid's, or greatgrandkid's first tooth or when they found out they can take their own diaper off in the middle of the supermarket.
The miles and miles of travel in an ugly car with a lousy radio on identical Interstate highways through four states. Sleeping on a lumpy bed that's only used twice a year in somebody's house, or a overly soft mattress in a cheap motel, or even, occasionally, in that same ugly car that brought me here.
Then as I stare out past the lights that are too bright to an audience that somehow, God only knows how, I just reached with something of the Truth that I attempt to bring to them, I know. I know why.
Those verses from Romans come back to me. 'How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?'
But I still hate it when the sweat gets in my eyes.
I'm a preacher in the truest sense of the word. The dictionary says a 'preacher' is a person who preaches. And that is exactly what I do.
I am not a minister, for I have no certain ministry, although I am told that what I do is my ministry. I disagree. I preach. I don't do counseling, except now and again at grave need. I don't make a habit out of visiting the shut-ins, or spending hours at the bedside of the dying, or appear as a character witness in family court for somebody. I preach. I preach here, then next weekend, I preach there, two hundred miles away. Then on Thursday at a revival in some town I never heard of before and had trouble finding off Interstate 81, I preach again.
During the week I make my living as the co-host of a radio sports show and producing commercials selling cars and dog food. In the fall I do football broadcasts for the high school. And I preach.
Oh, do I preach.
I have a couple different 'personas' I appear as. The one I like the least is also the one I get asked to do the least. And because of that, I'll introduce you to him first.
'Reverend Samuel' (my middle name) has never told a joke from the pulpit. Religion is a serious matter and we must be sober and stern in our dealings with it.
When I appear as the good Reverend it is actually work. I have said many times that all preachers are actors, and some are better than others. When I am on stage as the Reverend, I am really acting. I am not a serious man. Oh, don't get me wrong. I am very serious about my religion, but not in that way. I use him to make a point, and some people tell me the Reverend's sermons are absolutely the most hilarious thing they ever heard.
With his hair plastered to his head with grease, a black suit and tie on, carrying an extra large solid black Bible, and more marching than walking as he approaches the pulpit the congregation at the revival gets the idea that this man means business.
And I do. I always open with a very serious passage of Scripture. No matter what the topic of the day is, I begin with a general condemnation of everything and everybody. A good one is 'For all have SINNED and come SHORT of the Glory of God!' Then I'll work around to whatever I was supposed to be presenting. And it would be as serious as I could possibly make it.
Reverend Samuel's voice is indicting as he speaks in an almost droning tone. His enunciation is exact, his word usage perfect. His smile, if you can call it that, is a tight-lipped grimace that makes him look like he just stepped on a thumbtack. He never, ever, varies from the sentence outline he preaches from. Sometimes even directly reading entire paragraphs of his text.
Some audiences need this. A lecture, not a sermon. Usually the crowd I do this to is either older and more stayed and would frown on some of the antics I do ninety-five percent of the time, or it's a half wild group of young people who have torn themselves from video games or soccer matches to sit bored and defiant in quiet rows to listen to me.
But Reverend Samuel only appears to the younger set after they have had at least one dose of one of my other personalities.
So then, who or what is this about? Well. Me.
Who, or What, am I? (Dirty Dishes)
Well, you already know my middle name, Samuel, so I might as well tell you the rest of it.
I am Robert Samuel ... well, nevermind my last name. For this, Samuel will stand in for my last name. Call me Mister Robert Samuel.
And it is Mister. Not Doctor, or Reverend, or Esquire, or anything else. Although on the road I call myself Brother Bob to keep things in perspective. The only credentials I have for what I do is a Bachelor's degree in plant sciences and... That's right, I am more botanist than theologian. My minor was in forestry. But I found out that you really can't pay the rent with a plant degree so I naturally got into broadcasting and found out I had a knack for radio. And after awhile I ended up doing the production work that made up the majority of my paycheck.
I was exactly twenty-eight years and three weeks old when one of my home church's elders asked me to fill in on a Sunday evening when our preacher was ill.
If Mr. Rouse had known what he'd start with that innocent request, he might have asked me to transfer my membership to another church instead of preaching that night.
The idea for the sermon I would present came to me Saturday night. I had spent the previous three days carefully writing out my scriptures and working up a topic outline for my sermon when a different idea hit me right between the eyes.
I still haven't preached that sermon almost ten years later.
Sunday night I showed up at the church with an old milk crate and a bucket.
Before anybody else was there I secreted them up front under a blanket and went back to the entrance to greet the people that came to see me make a fool of myself.
"Any blithering idiot can preach a sermon." I had said at times.
Well, tonight was my chance to prove whether or not I was that particular brand of idiot.
It was a pretty good crowd for a Sunday night. A few had shown up just to see if I could do it since I was a minor celebrity from my early morning radio show.
After the songs and the Lord's Supper for those that hadn't made it to the meeting that morning and then the offering. It was all me. The elder introduced me and I got up and looked around.
"LORD!" I cried out. "Help me do this!"
I walked a little bit that way. "Lord! I didn't do any work to get ready. I even forgot my Bible." Which was true. But I borrowed one for the night from the office and I remembered the main verses I was going to use almost word for word.
Turning to look at the people I smiled broadly. "How many of you have ever prayed that kind of prayer?" I asked them and kept walking. "Lord! Get me through this test. Help me get my sales reports done. Or in my case in September, 'Lord, help me pronounce Joe Kzytchistie's name correctly every time he gets the ball.'"
Some of them chuckled.
"But is Prayer enough?" I asked. Some of the wiser heads in the audience pursed their lips and nodded. I jumped up on the stage and went to my blanket. Moving it aside I acted all surprised to see my box of dirty dishes.
I carried it to the front of the stage and held up the pan with macaroni and cheese stuck inside it and a greasy plate. "LORD! Help me! Please wash my dishes." I lifted them to heaven. "Lord. I need Your Power through the Spirit to get my dishes clean."
After having sat since last night on the counter at home that may be the only way that pan would ever get clean. My wife had wanted to wash it, then send a 'clean dirty pan' with me, but that wouldn't have had the same impact. This one was clearly a real live dirty pan.
I walked back and forth across the front with the pan and the plate. Imploring the Lord to help me make them fit to use again.
Then I held them out to a deacon sitting in the front row for inspection. "They clean yet?" I asked him.
"No." He said with a slight chuckle.
"LORD! You said You'd hear the prayers of your saints. PLEASE make my pan clean."
It was still a mess. I took it back to the milk crate and put it in, I got out a spatula and a skillet, equally dirty from lunch today.
"Lord. I'm hungry, I have to have a clean skillet to cook my dinner. Please Lord, see to my need."
I knew it was starting to get a little old, so I moved on. I put the skillet on the floor and dropped the spatula in it.
"'But PROVE yourselves DOERS of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.' Right? James chapter one. You have to Do something. Ours is a Living faith. An Active faith."
That prompted a few 'Amen's from the Amen corner of the building.
"I have FAITH that the Lord could wash my dishes if it were His will. There is no doubt that the Creator of the Universe could make my skillet shine like it was brand new. But He doesn't work that way." I picked up my borrowed Bible from the pulpit. "Lets look at the middle of chapter two of James and then at my crate of dirty dishes. As Jesus put it, sort of, 'if you have the faith of a mustard seed you can say to these dirty dishes 'move from here to there', and they shall move.'" I looked at the dishes. "Maybe I don't have that kind of faith. But in James the Apostle talks about faith not having works being dead. Is there a contradiction there?" I waited just a second before answering the question. "NO! Christ said that kind of faith does not come without prayer and fasting."
I looked all surprised and faced them with wide eyes. "You mean I have to DO something besides just believe?"
My voice got low and rumbled, the same voice I used to berate a football official that just blew an obvious call. "'You believe that God is One. You do well; the DEMONS also believe, and shudder.' Yes, they do. The devils in the men by the Sea of Galilee knew Jesus by sight and called Him by name."
"I BELIEVE the Lord God Almighty can make my dishes just as clean as they can be. But rationally. In my Mind, I know there is a bit more to it than that. It's not fun. It's almost like Work. But it has to be done."
I walked to the side of the stage and got the bucket. It was about half full of water.
At the front of the stage I sat the bucket down and picked up the plate. "I have to do Something!"
"Amen!" From several of those that do that kind of thing.
I dipped the plate in the water and grabbed the sponge that had been floating around. And I washed at the plate.
"Amazing what kind of filth a good dunking in the water can remove." I said holding up the plate. It was almost clean. More 'Amen's. I put the plate back in the bucket and stepped back to the pulpit wiping my hands on my pants. Something that my wife never quit reminding me not to do.
"Oh, boy. That's the First Step ain't it? First Peter three, towards the end..."
It was unintentional, but this was where my habit of not giving out the exact verse had begun. It wasn't because of any plan of mine to make the people read entire paragraphs of Scripture. But because the Bible I had borrowed had the verse numbers in the paragraphs in such small type I couldn't read them without squinting.
"'And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you- not in removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God..."
I looked up and saw most of them reading with me. I was on a roll and didn't want to read the rest of the verse, most of them knew it by heart anyway. "God knows you believe. He knows you better than you know yourself. Why does he want you to get all wet? Do you need a bath? Well, some of you might. I think I do. But still."
Back at the bucket I dipped the macaroni and cheese pan in the water. Water alone didn't help much. I swiped at it with the sponge and only succeeded in getting the sponge slimy.
"Oh, My!" I said holding the pan up. "We dunked it. But there is more work to do!" Back to the pulpit and the borrowed Bible. "The last verses in Matthew. Christ told us to DO SOMETHING to those we had just baptized. Unlike my skillet. Their sins were washed away in the Blood of the Lamb. But just like my skillet, there was more for US to do. Under Divine Command. In my case, the command comes from my wife..."
In the middle of such a serious section the humor seemed to work. The chuckles were there, but they seemed thoughtful.
I was standing over the crate. "LORD! My dishes are still dirty! Have you forgotten me?" My hands were lifted skyward in supplication.
"Has he?" I asked them leaving my hands up. "NO! Back in Matthew. He will be with us until the end of the Age. Is that enough? No! We have to work, we have to feed the hungry, and teach the new believers, and raise our children and.... And Wash Our Dishes!"
Back at the pulpit I started to bring it to a head. "It may mean we have to get a little dirty. Or be a little uncomfortable. We might get snakebit, or end up in prison or a shipwreck. But we MUST work for the Lord." I looked at them. "Faith requires action. The Lord requires action. Christianity is a Way of Life. A Way TO Life! Remember. The Devil himself believes. But I don't think it's going to be a lot of help when the time comes. Is your faith dead? If so. I know a way to revive it."
I kicked at the crate of dirty dishes.
It was short for a sermon, something I have kept up. I rarely preach more than fifteen to twenty minutes. When attending a convention I listened to a well known preacher run on for almost three quarters of an hour. When I asked some of those that had been subjected to it what his main ideas had been, most couldn't name more than two of his seven points. I would pick one or two ideas, and bring them home in a brief, to the point, engaging sermon. If I needed more time to make both points, it became two sermons.
"So. We've learned a couple of things. One. I can't get out of doing the dishes by praying over them. And Two. Faith alone. Prayer alone. Even Faith and Prayer together, are only half the battle. We need to get out of the pews and get off our knees and get about doing the Lord's Work!"
Several 'Amen's closed the sermon for me.
I nodded to the pianist and Mr. Rouse. "Excuse me. I've got dishes to do." I said to the people. I picked up my crate and the bucket and walked to the church kitchen.
Standing over the sink draining the bucket I wondered how it went over. I knew it hit with a few of them, but overall. I thought some of the more conservative members might get upset about me comparing the work of the Church to a box of dirty dishes. But it was something they needed to hear.
Our church had several people that would pray for, and against, anything. But they wouldn't so much as pick up the phone to call city hall to let their councilman know they were unhappy about something. They felt it wasn't their place to get involved. That the Lord would take care of things in His way. They didn't want to hear that maybe, just maybe, they would have to do something themselves in the real world.
Maybe I was lucky. Yes on the sports radio show, I was the straight man, and the butt of a good many of the jokes and gags. But I also had a huge platform, and by gentleman's agreement, my co-host, Art, didn't degrade himself into personal attacks, nor did he go after Christ or the Bible. Organized religion, my slightly receding hairline, and other things were fair game.
I got to pick on Art's weight, his alimony payments, and the fact he couldn't drive, as demonstrated by his being on a work-only permit.
During the show some of the callers would tell me to put down my Bible and talk about how so and so was doing as a middle relief pitcher for Chicago. But most of the regular listeners didn't have a problem with it. And in fact, many of the comments appreciated the balance between me and Art, the confirmed agnostic. As far as anybody knew, ours was the only show in the three state area that openly combined religion and sports. And it worked. Our ratings were the highest in the listening area for morning drive time talk shows.
After the show I took phone calls in our office. And almost every day somebody wanted to know more about this faith that I publicly proclaimed and defended while discussing the designated hitter and the hockey playoffs. And I told them about it. I'd meet them for coffee, and invite them to attend the Bible Preaching church nearest them. I couldn't invite somebody from fifty miles away to come to my church, but I had at least one New Testament Church in every town for a hundred miles around on my list.
Sometimes the caller would try to pin me down to exactly what denomination I belonged. That was a pointless exercise as far as I was concerned. My church was non-denominational. But even if it wasn't, I would not promote a particular 'brand' of church because the name on the outside didn't matter. It was what was being taught inside that counted. A congregation can call itself anything under the sun, and a lot of them did, and there was a lot of false teaching coming from a lot of pulpits inside building that had Christian or Bible or New Testament on the outside. I had been to and talked to at least a couple of the church fathers at every one of the congregations on my list. Every one. It had taken me years to put it together.
Several people from my church came into the kitchen.
"We were looking all over for you." Mrs. Taylor told me.
"Undoubtedly with hot tar and some feathers." I said putting the pan into the milk crate.
"No way!" Mr. Silverson said from the other door. "You were great! We didn't know you had it in you."
To tell you the truth, I didn't either. But to them I just smiled modestly and shrugged. "Was it that good?"
Mr. Rouse was behind Mrs. Taylor. "Would you be interested in joining the fill in preacher pool?"
Five fill in sermons later I wondered if maybe I should switch professions. I had preached the 'dishes' one twice, and two regular stand there and talk type sermons, and one that was more Bible lesson than sermon, but it was the one about the dirty dishes people remembered. Although all had been well received.
I really thought about looking into the full time ministry. But then I found out that the Sunday morning hour was only a small part of a huge job with responsibilities across the board and details that would drive anybody with any sense mad. Which reinforced what I thought about regular pulpit filling home church answer the phone at Oh Dark Thirty ministers; they were all crazy.
Then I did my first revival.
I had to preach two sermons on back to back nights.
I had to write another sermon.
It wasn't so much of an idea as an actual stroke of total insanity.
And inspiration from a charity clothing closet.
One of my pet peeves was people that were about five different people, depending where they were and who they were with. I tried to be, and seemed to be fairly successful at, being one person pretty much all the time. I had been toying with the idea and even had written a couple of outlines to hammer it into the ground. But it didn't fly. Something was missing.
It cost me thirty dollars to buy the three jumpsuits and the jacket I wanted. But the sermon wrote itself around them after that.
All right, it was a little schtick, maybe a lot, but I knew as I practiced that it would make my point. I might dislocate my shoulder. But it would make my point.
The revival was at a somewhat larger church than I was used to. I had preached to crowds, if you could call them that, ranging from twelve people to maybe just over a hundred or so. This building was the largest actual church building I had ever been in. The church was just outside Annapolis, Maryland, like a twelve hour drive from my house. They had never seen me, never even heard my name.
And they had called me for their revival.
Ahhh, all right, honesty is an occupational hazard. I wasn't even their third choice for their revival. The Big Name almost famous preacher they had booked came down sick at almost the last minute, and they asked him if he could find somebody. He called a minister that called a preacher that called somebody's cousin who called my preacher who called me. Or something like that.
They had no idea that the respectable slightly elderly Man of God had been replaced with a raving maniac with a garbage bag full of second hand store jumpsuits and hand made signs with double sticky tape on the back.
The revival opened with a great singing group of two married couples. The women were absolutely gorgeous and sang until the rafters rattled. I think the two men sang and witnessed or something, but it didn't matter. Then there were a couple of congregational hymns while they cleared the stage of the amps and stuff. I had told the man in charge of the podium I didn't need the pulpit brought back to the middle of the stage. He nodded and handed me the wireless mike that I had to use to get my voice back to the top of the balcony.
Now this was a crowd. Last night, the first night of the revival, they had counted over three hundred people. Three hundred thirty seven people.
The man announced me to them and there was a very generous round of applause.
It lasted about a minute and a half. As I opened the garbage bag and laid out the jumpsuits and their labels I felt like I was back at my church with a 'good crowd' of about fifty.
There were a few amused chuckles as they got an eyeful of the colorful outfits.
One of them was from a garage, another was hunter orange, the third was the ugliest shade of green ever created. I took off my own suit jacket and put on the one I had bought with the jumpsuits, on the back I had pinned the label, 'PREACHER' in big dark letters.
"Hello. I'm Robert Samuel. And I'm tonight's lecturer on Abnormal Psychology." I nodded knowingly. "Or maybe I am tonight's example of Abnormal Psychology."
I paused for a minute. "In Revelation six, in the part about the fifth seal, the martyrs are given a white robe. Just before that in chapter three He that walks among the candlesticks, the Faithful and True, tells the church of Laodicea to give their treasures to Him, and buy for themselves White Garments." I nodded and smiled. "White clothing is the symbol used in the New Testament for Holy Garments. The difference between those and the Holy Garments made for Aaron in Exodus is that these, the pure ones, are not made by men, but by God."
"The Transfigured Christ was clothed in white, his clothes BECAME white, so they were not so when he was wearing stuff off the rack. The angel at the tomb was clothed in dazzling apparel, the angels at the Accession were clothed in bright white. OK. So the department stores in heaven have an overrun of white robes?" I grinned. "I don't think that's it. There is more to it than that."
"We have to EARN the privilege to wear the same garments as the Holy One of God. They are not just given to you because you're a nice guy. You can't get them buy writing a check to the church's building fund every year. You get them, by walking the walk, living the Life we are told to live. Every day, in Every Situation, ALL THE TIME.
"Colossians, 'Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.' Yeah, that's the right verse for this sermon." I paused for a second. "It says 'DO ALL'. Does it say 'Do all' in your Bible?" I asked a couple of people in the front row. They looked confused.
"Oh, you can't find the verse. You want me to point you to one of the central passages in our faith with chapter and verse." I shook my head. "If you don't have at least a passing familiarity with Scripture, how are you going to 'Resist the Devil' so he will 'flee from you'?" There was some approval from the crowd. "But I can be reasonable. It's in Colossians three."
But I didn't give them a chance to find it, I just kept right on trucking.
"Paul tells us there to sing and teach and all that. Then in the next breath he says we are to do everything in the Name of Christ. Changing the oil in the car, answering the phone at work, walking the dog. Not just the stuff in church." I gestured to the beautiful architecture around me.
Now I left the pulpit and walked to the middle of the stage. I turned around so at least the front half of the room could read the sign on my back. "Right now I'm a preacher. I'm here, and I'm preaching." I said. Then I took off the jacket and laid it on a chair. "But tomorrow I might have to go to work as a mechanic."
It took some fumbling but I got the mechanic's jumpsuit on. "I've changed my outer garments and I'm ready to fix your transmission." I pulled out a prop, a large pair of lockjaw pliers and played with them for a second as I turned around to show the sign on my back. "But have I changed? Me. The guy in here." I thumped my chest causing a mild hum in the wireless mike for a second.
Some of the people answered 'no'.
"But unfortunately how many of your fellow Christians do just that?" I pointed the pliers at them accusingly. "You are the greatest Christian since St. Paul here in this building. But when you put on your work clothes." I tugged at the jumpsuit. "Well, we'll talk about that later." I pulled off that jumpsuit and went back to the pulpit. "Oh, forgot. I'm a preacher again." I put on the jacket with the sign on the back. "That's better. Unless it is a case of what the Lord referred to like the Pharisees. 'Whitewashed Tombs' He called them. Pretty outside." I straightened my lapels. "And inside full of everything unclean."
The sermon, including multiple wardrobe changes, went pretty well. I ranted about Christians that are ashamed to be seen with other Believers when they go out to eat. Church Elders that can be found out catting around at the Country Club. Church Board Officers that swindle people when they are at work selling cars or copiers.
"If you think the Lord is going to be upset with His people that don't help others of His People, how is he going to feel about the ones that knowingly rip them off?" It was time for another change. This time I changed the paper on the back of the orange one. Now it said 'BELIEVER' in huge letters.
"How many of you wear this sign when you go out deer hunting?" I ran over and picked up the ugly green one. "Or when you go out shopping for a birthday present?"
Then it was the mechanic's suit again. "What a difference would it make if you wore this sign." I turned around and pointed to my sign, except one side had come loose and it was hanging about halfway down my back. "On this suit when you're out selling insurance?"
I dropped the mechanic's suit. "Maybe if you were walking as a Christ-professing Believer you wouldn't be able to sell somebody more insurance than they needed. Maybe then you wouldn't get that year-end bonus, then you wouldn't be able to take that trip to Florida. Maybe you wouln't be able to take two hour lunch hours when you only are supposed to get thirty minutes at the factory." I nodded slowly. "Am I saying that to work as a Believer. To WALK as a Believer in every facet of life I want you to loose your job and have your family end up sleeping under a bridge?"
Taking a deep breath I leaned on the pulpit and shouted, "NO!" Then I realized I was still wearing the hunting jumpsuit. "Sorry, I'm preaching in my hunting clothes. Oh, well. Let's look back at Colossians. It does say 'Do All' doesn't it?" I looked at the front row. A couple of them nodded.
"When you are in front of the Lord Of Lords is it going to matter at all how many extra extended warranties you sold on how many gas stoves and chest freezers?" I looked at them. "Of course not. But! If you sold even one to somebody that couldn't afford it under some shaky pretenses, do you think The Final Judge might have something to say about it? What you did to one of these least of His Brothers?" I pointed the pliers at the crowd again. "If you did your job in the Name of the Lord as a form of Worship unto Him, you would work even Harder. You won't goof off when you're on the time clock. You would sell more insurance and refrigerators, and do it honestly. You would Glorify God when you are out relaxing, which means some of you need to really work on your golf game, but still, you would play the best round you could and if you shot a fifty over par, that would be the best game you could play."
The laughter was genuine. Evidently there were at least a few that would never have to worry about joining the pro tour in the audience.
I brought it around to the reason we were all here in the first place. The Son's offer of Salvation to us. I wound it down and nodded to the resident minister. He stood up and I mentioned that I had laundry to do and thanked them for their attention. Then I stuffed my jumpsuits into the bag and walked out with it over my shoulder.
The applause was something I didn't expect. I glanced at my watch. Seventeen minutes, start to finish. Maybe that was what they were clapping for.
They had put me up in a guestroom attached to their school.
It was nice enough, but the building was so quiet as I walked through it it was unnerving.
I dropped the bundle on the floor and went back to the hallway outside the Sanctuary. It wasn't my habit to stay for the ego polishing congratulations of the people as they came out. But refreshments had been promised afterward and I wasn't sure I could find their fellowship hall in the huge complex.
Some preachers I had seen seemed to live for that handshake and 'Good Message Today' from the congregation. To me, that was almost doing your thing to earn the praise of men. I honestly didn't really care what they thought of the message. That wasn't it. An emotional response was nice, but I was aiming a little deeper than that. I'd be happier if a few of them came up to me and said, "I really disagree with some of the things you said. Can we go out for a cup of coffee and talk about it?"
Fortunately I caught one of the teenagers that was working crowd control and directing people to the restrooms, he was just propping the doors open. I asked him where the refreshments were hiding and he pointed me down the other hall toward a flight of stairs. I had to shake a few hands but managed to get there without meeting all three hundred people in the chapel.
It was much more gratifying for my part to stand over the plate of finger sandwiches and discuss a few of the points of my sermon with a little old man who seemed to have memorized about half the Bible and most of the sermons he had ever heard. He questioned me about the symbolism of the various colors of the jumpsuits, and I had to admit that the symbolism was that I got them for about five dollars each.
The gentleman laughed and laughed. He thought there was some deep theological reason for the green and orange ones.
Then we were interrupted by the youth group and some of the other regulars of the congregation.
Although it was a total of less than five minutes, I've always looked back on that conversation as my confirmation as a wandering preacher. I never saw the little old man again, but I heard his voice many times asking me those very specific and pointed questions as I struggled to write other meaningful presentations for many years after that.
The meet and greet went on for a couple of hours. I begged out early saying I was still a little beat from my drive that morning and needed to get a good night's sleep.
That night I had to turn on the clock radio to drown out some of the silence of the empty school building.
The entire next day I ended up talking to a couple of young preachers who claimed to be having trouble making their messages informative and entertaining. I told them I got the idea for the message first.
"I put together the point I want to get across. Then I look for the medium. I want to be more than a prop slinger. And I have preached messages where the only prop I need is the Bible. But sometimes, a visual aid works." I said remembering the jumpsuits almost jumping off the clothing rack at me.
"Do you have to tell a joke or two?" The new youth minister in town asked me.
I shook my head. "Sometimes humor backfires. Other times it will be the only thing they remember. It can make the sermon, and it can wash out everything you said before that."
"Which seminary did you go to? My professors never talked like that. I mean, putting it just like that. Simple and direct."
I laughed. "I've never even been on the campus of a seminary. In college I studied botany. I work during the week as a sports broadcaster on the radio."
They looked at me like I had told them I was really Elvis.
"And they let you preach?" The other one, a 'fresh out of seminary in his first church' minister asked with wide eyes.
"Which seminary did John the Baptist go to? Most of the Apostles couldn't read or write beyond the barest basics they needed to live. Timothy just had the instructions he had from Paul on the road before he was sent out to preach. Now don't get me wrong, to do your job requires skills and knowledge I do not possess. Administration, counseling, funerals, all that, that's the difference. I am a preacher only, I come in, upset everybody talking about sin and walking the faith and living like we are Supposed to live. Then apply a swift kick to their complacency and I'm on the road. Leaving you to pick up the pieces."
The youth minister shook his head. "I had a better conversation with some of my kids in the van back to our church than I had in a long time. You got through to them."
"If you could get through to that crew they should double whatever they paid you for your coming here."
I jumped a little. "I'm getting PAID for this? WOW!"
"I told you to not mention that to him." One of the other ones kidded.
We laughed together and they asked me for my business card. The only cards I had were the ones from the radio station saying I was a 'Sports Correspondent'. They thought that was hilarious and we laughed some more.
It took some ingenuity on my part to get my dishes dirty again for tonight's mayhem. I ordered lunch delivered, and made the biggest mess I possibly could out of it.
I didn't waste the food, but I ate like a three year old. And it was fun.
Then I borrowed the school's kitchen and burned some cheese and bologna to my skillet and pan.
From across the room I could see they were dirty. So I put them in my milk crate and put my name on top in big letters so the very efficient housekeeping staff didn't ruin my plans.
It was close. I caught a very nice older woman carrying my crate down the aisle two hours before the service. "Oh, Mister Samuel. Do you want me to clean these up for you?" She asked.
"No thank you ma'am they're fine."
That's why I had to do it again. They had been readied before the trip here. Scorched macaroni and cheese, burned grease, a bread crust stuck to the plate with dried egg. And somebody, while cleaning my guestroom, Helped me. They had run them through the cafeteria's dishwasher. They weren't that clean when I bought them.
Life on the road can be interesting.
I spent the next hour guarding my props until the people began to come in.
The sermon went over very well. And with my closing line, "Thank you for your attention. Now please excuse me. The Lord wants me to wash my dishes." I started to walk to the kitchen only to be escorted by the three housekeepers that had cleaned and sterilized my props before.
"We're sorry Mister Samuel. We didn't know you used them for your sermon."
I smiled and nodded and chatted with them while they subjected my crate and it's contents to another high power wash.
The real world was waiting for me Monday morning back home. I had taken Friday off to get over Pennsylvania Turnpike Lag, and then spent the weekend with my family and do a lot of reading. What did I read? Everything I had bought in Annapolis about Washington DC and Baltimore sports teams.
Now don't get me wrong, a morning radio sports call in talk show is not The Real World.
Art was serious when he asked me how the revival went. "Did you get excommunicated?"
"Not yet." I smiled back.
"For those of you that haven't heard, Bob was invited, yes, invited, to preach at a revival in a dinky little church out East for a couple of days last week. So he skipped out on us to go save those vile sinners somewhere around DC."
"I know some local sinners that are worse than they are." I said smiling at Art, "Some of them do talk radio."
"I resemble that remark." He cackled, "But I hear a rumor that you did some homework for the show while you were out there."
"Oh, yes indeed. I've got football previews and baseball trade rumors, and even some boat racing news I brought back with me." I grinned into the mike.
"Well, as long as he doesn't talk about the O's I'm game. We'll be back with that and more of your calls, after these annoying commercial messages and the news."
He nodded to the engineer and we went to the break.
"So you went solo to the big city." Art said.
"Yeah, Carol didn't want to go with me this time. She stayed home with the kids."
"Kid. The new one's not here yet." Art snickered.
"Tell her that."
"Two minutes." The engineer said to us through our headphones.
I reached into my satchel and got out the first thing I wanted to talk about. The Washington and Baltimore outlook for their pro football teams as training camp approached.
Art nodded to me, and I licked my lips and teeth and leaned up to the mike. "Good Morning Ohio!" I said cheerfully. "And now with your local headlines and the up to the second traffic and weather, we go to the newsroom and the lovely and charming Miss Wendy."
I couldn't even see the news studio from where we sat. But the engineer pointed to her and she began reading her script. Then the traffic guy came on and talked about an accident on an off ramp. Wendy gave the forecast and mentioned the weather sponsor.
"You're back live in one minute."
I nodded and sat up straight. At my cue I introduced myself and Art again. "We've got a call cued up that the screen says can't wait because he has to go to work so, Dave, you're on."
The caller coughed slightly, "Yeah, I just want to say that I for one want to hear how the Skins are looking this year, so Art, let the man give us the word on the team."
Art laughed, "I already know how they look, pathetic in the backfield on both sides of the ball. No Secondary, no running backs. Come on Dave, you're always optimistic about them, and Bob's in the forgiving business, but I'm not going to give you a break on this one."
"They brought in some fresh legs in the draft with that Alabama kid. And their coverage men are all healthy. I expect them to be tough this year. Go ahead Bob, I'm going to hang up and listen."
"Well Art, I'm afraid you may be wrong this time. The DC papers tend to see things Dave's way." I read the scouting report and added my own comments from watching the TV coverage in the guestroom.
Then me and Art bantered back and forth about just what constitutes good deep field coverage for a pass defense.
After the next call I read the spot about speedboat racing on the Atlantic off the Maryland coast. And we had a call from a woman who had been out there for it two years ago.
At the bottom of the hour we had another newsbreak.
The first call after that wanted to know where I had preached in DC.
"Art was misleading you again. It was between DC and Annapolis. The closest I got to the district was on the bypass looking for my exit."
"Oh." The caller said and hung up.
"All right. Let's see what Roger has to say. You're on with Bob and Art." Art said to the microphone and hit the call button.
After the show I sorted my mail and filled out a form for my press credentials for the university, then did some production work staying busy until well after lunch.
But the repercussions of my two sermons 'out east' were just beginning.
The intercom light was blinking, I pushed the button and answered it.
"Robert?" The receptionist said.
"You have Doctor Marlin on line three."
"Doctor Marlin?" I said puzzled. "Who's he?"
"He said he was from the Lake Shore Church in Cleveland."
"Oh, OK. I'll be right with him. Let me get back to the office."
It took me a good few minutes to get things turned off and get back to the office. By then I forgot who I was supposed to talk to.
"Robert Samuel." I said picking up the phone.
"Good afternoon, sir. This is Larry Marlin from the Lake Shore Church."
"Have we ever met sir?"
"No, I don't think so. But my brother attended the revival in Maryland you were at last week."
"I'm sorry." I grinned.
"Oh, don't be. He sent me the video they shot of your sermons. Great work! I loved the one with the dishes."
"Thank you, sir." I knew what was coming.
"Can you preach that exact same sermon again to my congregation for the morning worship?"
"Well, no sir. I washed the dishes..."
"Oh." He laughed. "I know, but the same outline. The same point. I've got people up here that will pray for the sun to come out instead of shovel their sidewalk when it snows."
"In that case. Yes sir."
"And can you come next Sunday? The Eighteenth?"
I looked at my calendar, there was nothing scheduled that I saw. "Sir, I need to check with my wife first, but for right now, yes, I'd be delighted to shake up your people a little."
"I understand completely. If you can't make it that week, see if you can come the twenty-fifth."
I called my wife and she not only agreed with next week, she wanted to come with me.
Dr. Marlin was delighted and wanted to know if I needed any special arrangements.
"No. Nothing special. Just room for me, her and a two year old."
"You can all stay here with me, I have extra room." He paused. "You said she's pregnant. How far along is she?"
"Ahh, seven months or so."
"Or so." He said. "If anything happens between now and then give me a call. OK?"
"What could happen?"
Sometimes I'm so stupid I amaze myself.
Continued in Lord's Lunatic part 2
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