©02 LeviteContinued from part 1
"Well. My wife was supposed to be here this morning. It's easy to recognize her, she's better looking than I am." I smiled at the congregation at the Lake Shore Church.
The people at the church were absolutely wonderful. We left Friday after my show was over and drove up.
On the way Carol felt a little carsick. But it passed and we got into town without any trouble at all. I found Dr. Marlin's house without any problems. He didn't live in the parsonage, he had given the associate pastor that honor. He lived by himself in a four bedroom house on a hill in a very nice neighborhood. The church building was right on the Cleveland city line, the main parking lot was in the city, but the building was in a suburb.
"Are you OK Mrs. Samuel?" Dr. Marlin asked her before he even shook my hand.
"I'm just tired from the trip. I'll be OK."
I picked up Jay; he had slept for the last couple of hours of the trip. "Good evening sir." I said to Dr. Marlin.
"Glad to meet you and your family. Come in, come in. Make yourselves to home. You can lay the little one down in the front bedroom."
Once he was snuggling a large stuffed dog we went to the kitchen to visit.
But Carol's carsickness returned. And the kitchen table hadn't moved in years.
"It's been a few years but I remember that look on my wife's face. I think I'd better call Dr. Connelly."
"Who's he?" I said beginning to agree with him. Carol looked awful.
"She's a member of our church. And she just happens to be one of the best Ob-Gyn's in the state. Or so I hear. I've never had occasion to see her on a professional level." He grinned. "She lives right up the road. Let me call her."
The doctor came over in a matter of minutes. And decided to drive all of us to the hospital she worked out of.
Needless to say, before the night was out, Dr. Connelly was the one that introduced me to my daughter.
Saturday was a blur. The doctor wanted to keep Carol in the hospital at least through Monday. I learned all the back streets and shortcuts between Dr. Marlin's house and the hospital, and it was Carol that talked me into preaching Sunday morning anyway. Dr. Marlin smiled and said as long as I was here, and they didn't have any special plans for Sunday evening's service could I...?
"But our daughter, Elizabeth, had other plans. She wanted to meet Dr. Connelly since she had heard so many good things about her." I nodded to the lady that had answered her phone that evening to become a big part of our lives. "Thank you Doctor."
"My pleasure." She answered.
"Now. About that box that's sitting over there." I walked to my trusty milkcrate and the skillet with the piece of ham still burned to it as Dr. Marlin had fried it that morning.
I was on fire that morning. I ranted and raved, jumping up and down off the stage, screaming at God to get that stuff out of my pan so I could cook lunch.
When the plate went into the bucket I scrubbed at it so hard it was almost clean. I cheered and danced around the front of the church showing them what a little work by us, And Prayer, could do.
"By yourself, you can do nothing. If you expect God to do it all for you. Well, He can, But He Probably Won't! He'll meet you halfway, even more than halfway. But you have to at least put forth a meaningful effort!" I was nearly shouting at them.
It was time to bring it back to the Scripture and wind it up.
Since this was their morning worship service as I packed up my dishes I turned it over to Dr. Marlin. Then I excused myself in my usual way and walked out with my dishes.
The minister was up there working the decision for the Lord right into my sermon. As I went out he was reminding them what the Lord said we had to do besides believe and pray to be saved.
Then the doors closed behind me and I was trying to remember which stairs to go down to get to the church kitchen.
One of the advantages of my act was, I got to see every church kitchen there was. It was also one of the disadvantages.
I'm serious here. I have been told I didn't belong in the kitchen, I was yelled at for using too much hot water, and I was warned not to make a mess unless I planned on cleaning it up just like I found it. Not every church kitchen is guarded by a very grouchy person, usually elderly, and about three quarters of the time, female. But a lot of them are. And I have met more than my share of them.
Dr. Marlin's kitchen was protected as well. And no sooner had I gotten the milk crate on the counter and began looking for some soap than I heard somebody come in behind me.
"You can't wash those here. They're not church property."
I turned around and looked. Without saying more than "Yes, Ma'am" I picked up my crate and hotfooted it out of there.
Later in the car on the way to the hospital to see Carol, Dr. Marlin asked me why I hadn't washed my dishes.
"I met your kitchen warden."
"Oh. Mrs. McBride." He said knowingly. "Sorry about that."
"It's OK. I've learned the hard way you can't win so I get my stuff and flee for my life."
"Unfortunately that does seem to be the case when somebody has staked out a bit of the church property for their own. It took me two years to convince one of our Sunday School teachers her room wasn't her very own to do with whatever she wanted."
I looked at him with a curious expression.
He nodded and turned into the hospital parking lot. "She painted it one time, which was OK, but the colors." He winced. "Yellow and pink do not belong together." Then he laughed as we pulled into a 'clergy' parking place.
"Yellow and pink." I was having trouble imagining the combination. As we walked into the hospital I told him about the lady in a church in Pennsylvania that had followed me around all evening to make sure none of the plates and pans I used belonged to the church.
Carol was so happy with Elizabeth she couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand it. It was almost unreal. No, it was unreal.
Even though she was two weeks early, Elizabeth was perfect and healthy and actually within the normal weight for a baby. She was a beautiful baby. Dr. Connelly couldn't be happier with both of them.
"So how did he do this morning?" Carol asked Dr. Marlin.
"He fired them right up. I had four people ask me after the service if I had him in just to preach to them." He smiled. "And two of them weren't the ones I had in mind when I called."
"Good." Carol answered and took my hand with her hand that wasn't full of baby. "How's Jay?"
"I don't think we'll be able to get him away from the Stuarts anytime soon." I said.
Dr. Marlin told her all about the young couple with the three kids that had all but adopted Jay in the last two days.
After while the doctor came in and said that since everything looked so good with them we could leave in the morning as soon as the hospital shuffled our paperwork.
I could tell Carol was tired, so I used the excuse that I had to go get some thing's together for tonight's sermon.
"Which one you doing?" Carol asked me.
"I don't know yet." I answered leaning over to kiss her and the baby.
In the elevator Dr. Marlin looked at me with concern. "You were pulling her leg right?"
"No." I said watching the numbers count down on the display.
"You're preaching in three hours and you don't have a sermon."
"No sermon. But I got a couple of ideas. You got some card stock for your printer?"
He thought for a minute. "I think so."
"Good. Then I've got a sermon."
Do Not Disturb
It wasn't a direct rip off of a sermon I'd heard a few years ago. But it was close.
I had a plan more than an outline in mind.
There were a few verses I wanted to use, and a rough angle I was going to pursue. And...
"You know, what I've got in mind may shake a few of your people up. You know, make them think and question things and even wonder if you are meeting their needs spiritually."
"I hope so." He said as we got out of the car at his house. "If they stagnate, what does that say about my work?"
We made up then printed out a reasonable facsimile of a motel's 'Do Not Disturb' sign. Then we devised a way to hang them on the end of the pews.
While he attached the bits of string to them I wrote out the main points for my sermon.
My point was that we had to grow in the Word.
There was no way around it, the sermon was aimed directly at Comfortable Christians.
A brainstorm sent me digging through the Old Testament to find where Israel had allowed those that worshipped Baal to live in and around them. It was comfortable to let them go on without challenge. That sent me into Corinthians where the man was living with his step-mom.
I had my sermon done in half an hour.
Dr. Marlin was still taping string to signs. I grinned and helped him.
The sanctuary wasn't nearly as full as it had been this morning. But I was told about four times that it was twice the crowd they usually had.
Their evening opening was about standard, except the entire congregation partook in the Lord's Supper. Which I had always thought was the 'Letter of Scripture' anyway.
I had recruited several young men to help me out. As I got situated up front they went up and down the aisles hanging our 'Do Not Disturb' signs on the end of the pews.
I found the verses I was looking for. "'Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.' That's First Corinthians three, then we got this one from First Peter two. 'Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.'"
I stopped reading and looked out with a grin. Then I bowed and prayed for wisdom and a clear tongue to preach the Word. Then with an Amen that was answered by a few deep voices I looked up and began my assault. I needed a deep breath to get the right volume and inflection.
"You KNOW what you believe. Right?" I looked out at the audience. "You KNOW what is the doctrine of Truth and what is wrong." I tapped the Bible in front of me.
Several of them nodded. A couple said something like "That's right."
That was all I needed. I went through a laundry list of misconceptions and commonalties that pervaded almost every church I had ever walked in asking them to true or false each statement. For instance, that we should observe Christmas, but not really make a big deal about it. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Christians shouldn't get directly involved in politics to avoid conflicts of interest. You are supposed to be baptized in a white robe. Christians should never ever drink alcohol. Money is the root of all evil. The burden is on women not to provoke men into lust. Thou Shalt Not Dance. To pray in church you should bow your head and close your eyes. I laid a pile of them on them. A few of them nodded at various points. Some of what I said sounded real good. Some of it was even true, to a point.
"OK, now, let's go through all that and look at the Scripture that supports them." I opened my Bible and stepped away from the pulpit like I was going to begin.
"NOT A BLESSED ONE OF THEM WAS TRUE!" I roared. "Christmas is Never Mentioned in the New Testament. In Romans thirteen Paul tells us to be subject to government and to pay our taxes. The only thing required for immersion is that it be done in the name of the LORD for the forgiveness of sins. The New Testament Prohibition is against being an Alcoholic, or a Glutton for that matter. Modesty is all that the Book says women must exhibit, self-control is the man's problem. And Cleanliness is Next to Impossible because it IS NOT IN THE BIBLE!"
I pulled my finger back down from the sky and nodded. "But You Know, What, you believe."
"If you take One Step away from HERE." I held up the Book. "You are listening to Men and you are in danger of falling into the fire. Even Worse, YOU as a mature believer, if you are, If you by your own failing to check it out, if YOU lead one of these Babes in Christ Astray... HE won't be happy with you." I jerked my thumb at the cross on the wall behind me.
Then I worked my way back to the verses that tell us to study, and the ones about listening only to what you want to hear.
"You do not need to achieve a doctoral degree in Theology or Biblical Studies or Old Testament Grammatical Usage. But you shouldn't allow your knowledge of the Bible and Our Savior, your understanding of the Truth, and indeed your Faith Itself to remain immature. Could an long time believer who is not growing in the Faith be lukewarm as in Revelation three?" I stood there with a serious look on my face letting the silence grow.
My voice went into my near bass rumble.
"'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.'"
I waved my 'Do Not Disturb' sign. "Are you comfortable in your pew? Have you had to re-evaluate your beliefs lately? Have you even learned anything new in the last year? Have you been an outside witness for the Lord? Do you at least even sing the hymns in the service like you mean it or are you just reading the words in time to the music?"
Several people looked rather uncomfortable in their pews.
"And oh, by the way, about the 'Every Head Bowed and Every Eye Closed'. Guess what? We are told to pray with our face and hands toward heaven or flat on the floor more than any other way. First Timothy two, 'Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.'" I stood there and looked out at them forcing eye contact with several of the more uncomfortable ones. "It's never too late to learn and change your thinking."
I wrapped it up by telling them to keep their signs as a reminder and that as long as they were still breathing there was time to re-ignite the fire in the church. Then I brought it around to the actual choice for Christ and even if you had been 'saved' if you hadn't been living like it, you might want to consider whether or not you had been in the first place.
I nodded at Dr. Marlin and tried to talk my way out of the auditorium as the pianist began playing the intro to the decision hymn. And I almost made it except Dr. Marlin grabbed my arm and continued my talk about getting yourself right with God before your time ran out.
I stood there with him and sang the song, and to my great amazement several people came forward to re-commit themselves to the Lord and His work. It didn't move me to tears. Then. But later at the hospital telling my wife and daughter about it, it did.
Monday afternoon we all headed home.
The people of the Lake Shore Church had become family in those few days. They had bought us a baby seat for the trip home, and made sure our van was cleaned out and did hundreds of other things I couldn't even begin to list.
Art was merciless even though Monday morning I did part of the show by phone from Dr. Marlin's office, he rode me about making my wife have a baby so I could get a three day weekend.
But Tuesday was another day and he couldn't wait to see the pictures I had of Elizabeth's first day on Earth.
"Well, folks. He should be forever grateful to his God that Baby Elizabeth looks absolutely nothing like him, but is the spitting image of Carol." Art said smiling into his microphone.
"I am." I said honestly. "A real blessing."
"She's a beautiful healthy baby. Congratulations."
"And now that we're done gloating over Bob's new tax deduction we'll sell some cars and steaks and come back with what he learned about Cleveland's sporting teams while setting in the waiting room with all the other nervous fathers."
"Didn't have time to sit with them, Elizabeth was in too much of a hurry." I grinned. "But we'll be right back."
I didn't have a lot of insight into the Cleveland sports future, but I did have a good perspective on their baseball present, which got several callers all fired up, and the show passed rather quickly bantering about their hitters and a replacement outfielder that loved to steal bases.
"Maybe I need to make a few road trips." Art said as we closed out the show. "All I ever get to do is sit home and read magazines."
"Next time I'm preaching someplace, I'll take you with me."
He grinned as our theme song came up, "Thanks, but no thanks. We'll be talking to you tomorrow."
"This is Bob."
"And we're talking sports. Good bye."
I got my production work done in record time and was home with Carol and The Kids for lunch.
For the next couple of weeks my life was exactly that. The radio station and my family.
Then my life changed forever.
About a month after our interesting weekend in Cleveland I spoke at a couple of small churches as their headline act on Sunday Morning.
The Second Church in a town with only one church was dedicating a new baptistery. A special enough occasion for them to have a praise band play and a 'circuit rider' speak.
An elder that was at least as old as the state told me all about 'the old days' when one preacher served several small rural churches. Usually he'd go around and preach the same sermon at all of them doing two or three services on Sunday morning and a couple more that night.
"There was a time we had two services every weekend. On Saturday the preacher'd be in an give his address. Then we'd all come back on Sunday for the regular service with the Lord's Supper."
I listened and nodded and smiled.
What else could I do?
A week later was another official outing as 'Reverend Samuel'. They had specifically asked me not to throw dirty dishes around or flap across the stage in a jumpsuit three sizes too big for me. So...
I stood there like an undertaker and droned on about a few things for exactly eight minutes, then I stepped back, took off my black coat and undid the snap on coal black tie then walked down and stood next to the piano.
"Why do we listen to stuff like that?" I asked them jerking my thumb over my shoulder toward the pulpit. "Was Christ boring?"
Some of them glared at me like I had just spoken the worst blasphemy they had ever heard.
"Was the Sermon on the Mount dry and dull? Sure that one guy fell asleep on Paul while he was speaking, but he had been preaching all day!"
"In Acts 17, Paul on Mars hill. He didn't put them to sleep. He engaged them in debate. Some didn't listen, some did, a few believed." I walked across to a small old bookshelf that was loaded with old books. Most looked like they hadn't been moved in years. "Here we go. These books. I recognize some of the titles. Divinity studies, topical Bibles, reference books. Great stuff. A lot of things can be learned from them. But none of them are fun to read." I pulled one off the shelf and looked at the half inch of dust on top of it. "I've got this one at home. I bought it at a used bookstore in West Virginia. I've used it a few times, but mostly it sits on my shelf just like this one does here. It's a great resource, but you almost need a master's degree to wade your way through it. I'm sure there is information in here that would help me deliver some dynamic sermons, things that would make me a better man, and a better Christian. But what good is it if you need a dictionary just to read a paragraph?"
Their eyes said they thought I was exaggerating. I flipped through until I saw the chapter I remembered and began reading.
"'In the ecclesiastical pursuits the facilitator of the discussion can encourage dynamic intercourse in the academic setting through the suggestion of a central idea and his appropriation of an arbitrary position which, though extreme, is not completely irrational.'" I smacked my lips and blinked. "That was a mouthful. And I actually almost understand it, that's what's scary. But did the writer have to go out of his way to use every big word he knew in one sentence?"
"Paul was a trained and licensed Pharisee. He knew words bigger than this guy ever thought about." I gestured with the book. "If one of us preachers talked to a congregation like this, unless they were all Theology students, forget it! That's why during the Reformation people like Luther and Wesley talked to the people in languages they could understand. In ways they could relate to. The founders of that idea are good role models for us. David wrote Psalms the common people could understand, about shepherds. Christ talked about fishermen and house builders and farmers. The vine and the branches. Something they all knew about. Not 'ecclesiastical appropriations'."
A few of them laughed. Just a few. But the eyes of those in front of me told me they were getting the message. I slowly walked back to the pulpit wracking my brain for my next point.
I had gotten so far from my original outline I didn't see any way to get back to it.
"My outline." I said holding up the papers. Then I wadded them up and threw them at the old metal trashcan next to the bookshelves. "Sometimes things don't go by the book." I said. "A 'best laid plans of mice and men' kind of thing. If something isn't exactly how you want it, maybe, just Maybe, it's how GOD wants it!"
A few of them were in the classic 'you're not talking to me' defensive pose I remember from my college communications classes. This was overall the toughest audience I had ever preached to, bar none. But a few were listening closely.
I noticed a deacon with his hand about halfway up. "Yes, sir." I said nodding to him.
"But it says in the New Testament that all things are to be done properly and orderly."
My smile was a mile wide. "First Corinthians... ahhh, fifteen, no, the end of fourteen. Yeah that's it. It's right there with the speaking in tongues bit and where he tells women not to talk in church." I looked at the deacon. He nodded and I went on. "So exactly what did Paul mean by that?" I flipped through my Bible until I found it. "Let's quickly run through chapter fourteen. The chapter before he was talking about Love as the most excellent way of life. Fourteen opens with him saying that prophecy is the superior gift to tongues. Then he goes on to say that those that speak in tongues edify themselves. Then Paul says he'd rather speak five words of instruction to them that they can understand than ten thousand words that they can't."
"Wait a minute." The deacon interrupted me. "My Bible doesn't say that in verse nineteen."
This was great. Better than I had hoped for. "OK. Read it."
He did. Straight, original, 1611-1638 King James. "'Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.'"
"OK." I said as he looked up. "What does that mean to us, in our twenty first century words from the language used in Shakespeare's time?"
The deacon was thinking in his pew. Possibly for the first time in years. He looked up, evidently surprised. "I guess that's what it means."
"This isn't the time for guesses. What does it mean to you? ... No, don't look around, and she's not going to help you. What does that verse, these verses... Mean To You?" Evidently the woman next to him was his wife because she shook her head as he glanced over at her.
He started a little sheepishly, but ended strong. "That's what it means then, that Paul, and by extension us, I guess, are... I'm sorry, a habit. Paul and us are better off saying something everybody can understand than a lot of babbling they don't."
"If I had one with me I'd give you a cigar." I smiled. "Let's look at the next verse. How many times has Paul called the churches 'babes in Christ'? And here he is saying don't be children but to be mature in your reasoning. He goes on to caution them about division in the church brought about by those that bring in confusion and dissention by using their gifts. And he tells them that it takes two for somebody to speak in tongues, so it can be interpreted. If you can't find somebody that can translate it, sit down and shut up." I nodded to them.
"Then comes the bit about women being silent in the church, well. I won't go there today, that's a whole other sermon for another time. The last two paragraphs are the key to the whole passage. These gifts are from GOD, not from you. If you don't acknowledge that fact, then we won't acknowledge you. And it might not be a good idea to prohibit those truly given a Gift of the Spirit from using it. THAT'S where Paul says to do Everything in the proper order."
"We do not follow a god such as the pagans had. Some of their services were little more than a riot. An orgy. A tumult of all sorts of noise and drunken nonsense. Look back in chapter eleven of First Corinthians where Paul tells these people how to conduct a Communion service. That's the confusion and disorder he is referring to. 'This one is hungry and that one is drunk.' That's no way to run a railroad." I nodded. "Or a church service."
The deacon was nodding along now. He had evidently gotten used to the idea of thinking as he was listening and saw at least some light as I went along.
I glanced at my watch. By my reckoning I had preached about ten minutes more than I usually did. I saw a way to tie this back into where I started and turn the service back over to them for the closing.
"OK. So where are we? Is speaking so the people can understand it necessarily dull? Boring? Dry? No. If your mannerisms and tone of voice puts them off, you might as well be speaking in an unknown tongue. And to some degree you are. You might be preaching the Gospel right down the white line on that straight and narrow road, but if five minutes into it your audience is either asleep or making a shopping list... What's the point?"
"Go ahead caller, you're on with Bob and Art."
"I have reached Robert Samuel haven't I? I was given this number."
"I'm Robert Samuel you're on the air live, and we're talking sports."
"Oh, sorry about that. I was trying to reach you about a speaking engagement."
"Go ahead caller." Art said. "We'll go with almost anything on this program. And if it's an out of town engagement during the week. I'll accept for him to get him off the show for a day or two."
"Oh. Well. OK. I'm Joe Stillwell calling from the American Christian Brotherhood. We would like Mister Samuel to address our convention in August. We have an opening for a keynote sermon."
"What's a keynote sermon?" Art asked him.
"That's when all the convention's attendees will be in the field house for one of the central services. Usually about forty or fifty thousand people."
Art was asking all the questions and writing everything down. I was sitting there unable to breathe, let alone speak.
"And where will this be? Obviously it's got to be a pretty big place."
"At the dome in St. Louis."
"Oh, yeah. I take it you'll work your services in during halftime at the football game."
"The team is out of town that week. And we'll be long gone before they get back."
"I'm all for it." Art said. "Bob. Say 'yes' to the nice man."
"Yes, sir. Thank you. I'd be honored."
"Mr. Stillwell, hang on while we go to commercial and we'll let Bob talk to you without half of the state of Ohio listening OK?" Art was grinning like the Chessie Cat. "This is Art and Preacher Bob. We're talking sports and we'll be right back."
Mr. Stillwell had a good laugh when I assured him that several thousand people, if not half of Ohio, had indeed heard his offer.
Then I tried to pin him down on exactly what kind of sermon he wanted. Other than 'Something on the Old Testament' he wouldn't commit to anything.
I opened the Book to Genesis one and looked through it. Nothing really caught my eye. So I went on through Joshua and the Kings. Somewhere around Amos I had an idea.
There was no doubt about it; this one was going to be a bear to deliver. I'd have to stick to my outline and really pay attention to where I was and what I was saying. But it was still a month away or so. That night I began putting together parts of the idea, but I had to concentrate getting up for yet another rendition of the 'Dishes' for that weekend in Kentucky.
I had never been to a non-instrumental church before. I had heard about them, and I knew a guy that called into the show that went to a denominational one in a nearby town.
Now I was going to be speaking at one.
For whatever reason, their pulpit committee had called me, and invited me down specifically to do the 'dishes' sermon.
I had heard through reliable channels that half a dozen preachers had 'borrowed' my idea. One of them had even sent me half the proceeds he had earned for doing it a few months before. I didn't mind. I had 'borrowed' the idea for the 'Do Not Disturb' sermon from another preacher myself, and because I couldn't remember who had used it, or even when I had heard it, I couldn't send him even a thank you card. I did send a letter to the preacher telling him if he wanted to borrow my dirty dishes, he could without sending me any more money.
Where do I shake out on the whole music debate? Well, I really didn't. I have no opinion either way. To me, and more importantly, to the Bible, it's not a salvation issue. So if you wanted to sing without accompaniment, go for it. But if you thought it was your duty to tell me I was going to burn forever because I happened to like the piano, and guitar, and tambourine, and while your at it, plug in six string electric bass, then we've got some issues to discuss.
The gentleman I talked to told me I could do anything I needed to do, while maintaining the propriety of their service that is, and he looked forward to seeing my presentation. And using the King James Bible too, he added after a moment. I couldn't resist.
These things always happen for a reason. I know that. That's even Biblical.
Maybe it was because I had incorporated a new verse into my rant. I had been quoting from Psalms during the last couple of goes, well, OK, I had been singing the quote. With some good success actually.
Carol didn't go with me on this one, but she said she was coming to St. Louis with me, and we were taking the kids to the zoo while we were there.
I nodded, sure, no problem. Jay might like it, being four now. But Elizabeth wasn't even six months old. But. If she wanted me to take them to the zoo. To the zoo we'd go.
And to Kentucky I went.
It is a beautiful state. Horses, old distillery buildings, a couple of Civil War sites, rolling hills. And I got to see a lot of it.
Maybe even most of it.
They had given me the wrong directions. And instead of looking at a map, I followed the directions. Fortunately I can read a map, and after noticing that I hadn't seen a sign for the town in a hundred miles or so, I got out that map and looked at it.
I wasn't all that late to the house I was staying in.
Did I mention I am allergic to cats?
Sunday morning I managed to stop sneezing long enough to get through the sermon.
As I implored God to clean up my mess I reminded them that David was a man after God's own heart and he had written Psalm four. "'Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.'" I sang, "Well, David probably sang it better with his string ensemble behind him, but that's the idea." I looked back up to heaven, "I am Imploring You Lord... Make My Dishes Clean!"
They didn't say a word at my gentle dig at their serious lack of musical equipment in the sanctuary. Although they did have an old piano in the fellowship hall. I just smiled at that and at some very good fried chicken.
I've done a survey. If you go to a dozen random church dinners, fried chicken will be the centerpiece of at least six of them, and ham will be on the menu at two. Bean soup will be served at probably three or four with the chicken or ham, or maybe by itself. And then there is the salad brigade. Not lettuce and radish salads, no, ham salad, chicken salad, egg... yeah, you get the idea.
I have eaten enough fried chicken to make a vegetarian swoon. Plates of ground stuff with pickles in it had been presented to me by smiling children who proclaimed, "My mama made this."
I have wolfed down plates of chicken and dumplings, or even the odd BLT platter in fellowship halls all over eight or nine states. Baked apple dessert in New York State with New York State apples. Home made ice cream in Maryland after crab cakes. Fried Indiana catfish with commentary by the fishermen that caught them.
I like the simple church fellowship dinners. They are homey and entertaining. You get to meet the people when their guard is down and the conversation can more naturally turn from the state of organized religion in the USA in the post-modern era, whatever that means, to what they do for a living and do they like hockey.
But I have been to a few dinners that are almost as contrived and formal as White House State Dinners. I won't talk about those.
Just before I left, sitting around sipping coffee with a couple of the men of the church and eyeing a final piece of pie they button-holed me on the instrument question.
"So. Goes ahead and says it. Is we wrong?" The man asked me in plain English.
I put down my cup and looked him in the eye. "By the Book?" I tapped an old Bible one of the men had with him. He nodded. "I can't say. It is not a Heaven or Hell type of question."
"But Jesus never..." An older man said.
"I know. That's just it. Jesus and Paul. Peter. John. None of them ever said in so many words 'Thou Shalt Not Play The Organ In Church'. If they had, we wouldn't be having this discussion and instead of dirty dishes I'd be preaching about not making music. This is one of those cases where we are told to trust in God because none of us are wise enough to discern the truth. That's in First Corinthians six I believe. And I think somebody needs to read Titus three while I eat that piece of pie."
The older gentleman that owned the well worn Bible I had thumped handed it to a handsome young man that was his grandson or great grandson or something.
He read the 1611 prose with great inflection and feeling. Even pronouncing the Greek names clearly. At the two verses I had in mind, eight and nine, I nodded as he read, "' This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.'"
After he finished I mentioned that Paul also talks about being argumentative in chapter two.
"'Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;'" The grandson read.
I nodded. "Answering again. Arguing. Same thing."
They agreed and I finished my pie and coffee. "And now, I really need to get on the road. I'm on the radio in the morning."
"We can hear you down hear sometimes. If the weather is right." One of them said. "I really like your show. But you should convert that Art, he needs the Lord."
"The Lord and a good lawyer. One of his ex-wives is suing him again about something." I laughed.
I didn't get lost on my way back home.
Continued in Lord's Lunatic part 3
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