Lord's Lunatic- part five

intro and index

©02 Levite

Continued from part 4

Road Trip -2


        I was about forty miles north of town.
        I had been thinking about the smiling cyclone of activity named Mrs. Stephanie 'Stew' Overland.


        I'm stupid. That's a well established fact.

        Maybe I was reading into things. Maybe it's just wishful thinking. Maybe...



        Mrs. Overland had been sending out nineteen kinds of signals that she wasn't just interested in being a good hostess to a visiting preacher.
        I thought back to the conversation with the priest in the dining room. She had been polite to him, very polite. But she didn't hold eye contact with him like she had me. When she talked to some of the men of the church at the gym she didn't smile as brightly to them.
        The way she had lingered, that was the only word I could think of that fit. The way she had lingered in my room at night. Her asking me repeatedly if there was anything that I wanted or needed.
        And the way she called me 'Robert' when we were alone, and 'Brother Robert' when others were around.
        And holding my gaze.
        It hadn't been all that long since Carol had looked at me like that.
        Well, not since Elizabeth had arrived. But it was those kind of looks that had resulted in the baby joining us.
        My mouth got dry and I reached for the coffee cup. Then I froze.
        I wasn't reading into things. She HAD been coming on to me. And I hadn't seen it.
        "Oh God thank you for making me as dumb as your average American Dairy Cow." I said glancing over at a grazing herd.
        If I had thought for a second that something wasn't quite kosher I would have been out of the house and at the flea bag motel on the highway as soon as I could get my socks out of the drier.
        A dozen signs hit me in rapid succession. The way she touched my hand when she poured my tea. She hadn't touched the priest to pour his. When she stood in the bathroom door of my tiny room and asked me if the towels were OK and seemed to be posing.
        Don't get me wrong. I like women. I married one. I like pretty women, I can't help it, God wired me like that. For which I am very grateful. And Mrs. Overland was a pretty woman. There was no denying that fact. And if we were both single, I wouldn't have hesitated to ask her out to dinner.
        We were both married to other people. And I was in town to preach a revival. Not to seduce a fellow minister's wife.
        "Or be seduced by her." I added to the thought.
        Then the thoughts began that maybe her intentions were completely innocent, that she was just very friendly and trying to make me feel at home.
        I had to stop the double-thinking before I ended up with a headache and unable to focus on the road.
        "Lord. Whatever happened. Nothing Happened. Please help me get my mind off it." I prayed out loud as I turned toward onto the highway that would lead me into Michigan and toward my next destination. Which I hoped wouldn't be so interesting.
        The radio station I had been listening to was fading out so I tried to see if I could get something coming out of Detroit.
        In a few minutes I was deeply engrossed in the discussion about the standings as the last round of open-wheeled auto races loomed on the schedule. They were doing a phone interview with the car owner of the defending champion and grilling him about using one of his three team cars to block for the champ.
        I honked as the interviewer seemed to get the man on the defensive and his voice broke trying to answer the question.
        As they went to commercial I glanced out the window at a small country church nestled on a hill above a creek next to the highway. That reminded me of something. "Thanks Lord."

The Temple of Love in Christ Jesus the Lord and Church of the Saints of God

        A couple of hours later I slowed down as I approached a small city. Highway 223 bent to the left to skirt the town, my destination was in town. I followed my instructions and looked for the building.
        It was the right address. But Mercy me it took five minutes to read the sign.
        I looked at my notecard again. 'Temple Church' it said in my half readable scrawl. I nodded and got out of the car.
        Nobody was around.
        I walked up to the door that said 'Office' on it and knocked, then tried the door.
        The place was deserted.
        I walked back to the car and got in. Still listening to the sports talk station. Now they were ranting about the Detroit baseball team's pitching. I laughed. Art had said the same thing about them three months ago.
        Not wanting to just sit and wait I drove around the town and stopped at a convenience mart to refill my coffee cup and buy a local paper. In the parking lot I watched at least a hundred and twenty car auto train roll through town, reminding me I was very close to Detroit.
        After the train passed I drove back to the church building.
        A man was just getting out of his car as I pulled into the parking lot.
        "Well hello. How's the coffee?" He asked me as I got out of my car.
        I smiled, he had been in the market when I was. "Not bad." I stuck out my hand. "Robert Samuel."
        "I'm Doug Marks. They call me the Junior Minister." He answered shaking my hand in a warm firm grip. "Welcome to Michigan."

        I only had a couple of hours to familiarize myself with the place as the meeting was tonight.
        "You're probably dying of curiosity about our name." He said as I walked around the front platform.
        "The thought had occurred. How many unifications did it take to come up with it?"
        He laughed. "Is it that obvious?" I nodded. "Yeah, I guess it is. And believe it or not, all this occurred in the last five or six years. We've always been here, but three other local congregations were in trouble. One building burned down, another got in financial trouble. So... We kind of adopted them."
        "How did you do meshing the beliefs?"
        He shrugged. "We stood where we stand. On the Bible. By the Bible. With the Bible. And opened our arms. If they didn't like it, they didn't join us. But believe it or not, most read their Bibles and prayed about it, and joined us."
        "Then why the fancy name?"
        "To keep the lawyers happy. We assumed a lot of the assets and some of the debts of the old congregations. What other church do you know of that has four parsonages and two senior ministers?"
        I pursed my lips. "None that I know of."
        "We had five houses. We sold one, and rent two others out."
        It sounded reasonable. We looked around and he called the other minister to let him know I had arrived. Then we went over to his house for dinner.
        Tonight's service wasn't a revival or a special service. It was their regular Friday evening service.
        "A lot of our members work weekends. So we accommodate them by having a full blown Worship Service on Friday night. There are times we'll have more people at this one than on a Sunday Morning. Especially in the winter." Mr. Traiver said.
        The senior minister was definitely the Senior Minister. On the high side of seventy he looked like one of those Old Testament prophets I preach about, without the beard. He spoke in a natural bass and had the most expressive eyes I'd ever seen.
        Mrs. Traiver reminded me of my grandmother. And she acted the part. She was as happy to hear I was married with two kids as she could be. "Have you met any nice single girls that are looking for a nice man?" She smiled.
        "Mrs. Traiver is the designated matchmaker here." Doug said. "And I am her project for the year."
        "A minister should be married." She said.
        "So what are you speaking on tonight?" He tried to change the subject.
        "I was going to ask you want you wanted me to speak on."
        Mr. Traiver smiled broadly. "The Old Testament." He said in his deep voice. "A lot of our people think there is nothing in it but David and Goliath and strings of 'begats'."
        "Were you in St Louis?" I asked him.
        "No." He said answering the question.
        "But our son was. He told us all about it." His wife explained for him.
        The Junior Minister nodded. "That would be great. I've seen the tape, it would really make the point I have tried to make from the pulpit since I've been here."
        I looked at my plate. "In that case I will take another slice of ham, I'll need my energy tonight."

        After dinner we went back to the church building and I borrowed the basement to refresh myself with the Old Testament sermon.
        I had delivered it a couple of times since the convention, but it never hurts to run through something that intense just to keep up to speed. As I ran through it I made sure my hand made legal pad sized signs were all there and in order for my soon to be drafted assistants to hold up as I went through the books.
        After I mentioned Obadiah's 'Thus Sayth the Lord' envy I heard muffled laughter behind me.
        I kept preaching to the wall pictures of the Apostles and walked toward the laughter.
        Five or six kids were crouching behind the divider listening to me.
        "You're good mister." The oldest said.
        "Thank you. But now that you've heard tonight's message you can't tell anybody what it's about." I grinned.
        "Oh. OK. We can keep a secret." They said and ran up the stairs.
        I glanced at my watch. It was time to go.

Standing Room Only

        The kids could keep the secret. But I found out later that Mrs. Traiver couldn't. She had called the Ladies Circle and told them about the Great Sermon.
        Fewer people would have found out about it if she had just released it to the wire services.
        I gathered with the men of the church in the office and we prayed for the service and the people attending it. Then we went out to the sanctuary.
        For some reason I just hadn't been able to grasp that this was a full dress Worship Service. Then when we walked down the hall and into the auditorium light dawned.
        The majority of the people were dressed up. The candles on either side of the communion table were lit. The organist was playing a very lively praise song. A young couple were greeting latecomers and handing them bulletins.
        It was the Corporate Worship Service of the Church at its finest. Period.
        We walked to the front and lined up in the 'reverent attentiveness' posture I was so familiar with.
        There was the Call to Worship. Several songs. The Offering. The Lord's Supper. A special song by a guy with a great voice. And then...
        "And now to bring us a special message on the Old Testament. Robert Samuel!"
        I got up to scattered applause and walked up to the stage. "Good evening." I said to them.
        This was the fullest church building I had ever seen. Yes I had preached to bigger crowds, and in larger auditoriums, but this room was packed. People were lined up along the wall in the back. Standing shoulder to shoulder to hear me.
        I was glad I had secreted my travel mug, my only souvenir of Mrs. Overland, the Lord Forever be Praised, under the pulpit full of cold water.
        "Before we get started I need two volunteers to hold some visual aids." I looked at some of the younger people. "OK, that fine young gentleman right there." I nodded to a boy about eleven years old. On the other side of the aisle I picked a girl about twelve. They came up and I handed them the signs and briefly explained what they had to do. Then I set them up in chairs on either side of the stage.
        "All right. Let us pray." I said. The prayer was almost my standard prayer for Wisdom and Words and the Ability to deliver the message.
        I had managed to bring the CD of music that I had used at the convention. It had tried to get left behind at home, but as I was going out the door I saw it on the counter. Next to my travel mug. I picked up the CD. So it goes. I nodded to the sound guy up in the most logical sound booth I had ever seen.
        This sanctuary used to have a balcony. Now it had a sound booth, and a sound proof cry room for people with little kids that waited until time for the meditation for the Lord's Supper to start screaming.
        The music started.
        "OK kids, hold up the first sign and we'll go for it."
        There was laughter. The boy's sign was exactly backward. He was holding Malachi upside down. We sorted it out and now they were both holding Genesis.
        I was into Joshua and moving along before the audience realized what was going on. Some of them were following along in their Bibles and nodding. Scattered 'Amens' erupted from various ones at a few points.
        The kids kept up, with a little prompting from me when I changed books without warning. But on the whole they did a great job
        My characterizations of the Old Testament prophets got a few good laughs. And I rocketed on through the Major Prophets and then got into the Minor Prophets.
        Finally, at just about the twenty-minute mark I wrapped it up and presented my assistants for a round of applause.
        Then I had to change pace and end the sermon with the Salvation message and how the entire Old Testament pointed to the coming of Christ and his Death for our Life. I nodded to Mr. Marks who stepped into the aisle as the organist moved to her console.
        He took over the service and I stood off to one side.
        Mr. Marks was far better at stating the Case for Christ than I was. But even with his beseeching nobody made their decision that night as we sang the song.

        Later in the office over cookies and coffee both ministers commented on how well they thought it went over.
        "I plan on referring back to your sermon for the next month. I'm going to go through and highlight some of the things you touched on that we seem to forget about." Mr. Marks said.
        "Go for it. But you understand, that sermon wasn't mine. I had good material, I just condensed it a little."
        "Two years of Old Testament History and Theology into about twenty minutes. Yeah, you condensed it." Mr. Traiver smiled. "I just wish you could stay here and do it again Sunday."
        "Is it true that a lot of the people that come on Friday night will come back Sunday?" I asked him.
        "No." The Senior Minister answered.
        "Well. It's not a lot of them. Maybe three or four families and some others. Probably about twenty five or thirty people come for both." The Junior Minister added for him.
        "If they missed it tonight. They really missed something."
        I thanked the older man and nodded thoughtfully. I wasn't pondering the people that go to two church services a week. I was wondering where I was supposed to spend the night.
        An elder came in with an envelope. "We decided our usual speaker's gratuity wasn't quite enough for you for such a performance, so we passed the hat to pad it a little."
        I had learned early in doing this to not even open the envelope. I thanked them for their generosity and told them that whatever the Lord Provided would be more than enough.
        After some more visiting and a few questions we walked out to the parking lot.
        "You got your stuff in the car?" Mr. Marks asked me. I nodded. "Good, just follow me."

        He lived in the other parsonage just a few blocks away.
        "That used to be my church. But a church needs more than twenty members... so." He pointed to a building across the alley from his house. There were now construction trucks and machinery all around it. A big sign said 'Orson Brothers Contracting' in front of it.
        "I've seen plenty of churches with twenty members."
        "On Easter Sunday two years running."
        Inside I turned down yet another cup of coffee and we talked for awhile about why his individual church had failed.
        "I think it was a combination of major problems, one of them being me. They expected me to do all the evangelism, all the calling, they even told me if the church was to have a dinner I had to set up the menu."
        "And you walked into that church agreeing to all that?"
        "No. It sort of just happened after two of the senior board members died. What they had been doing fell to me. Then a couple of the leading families of the church quit... Well, one quit, the other moved away when his job changed. And the slide began."
        I nodded. I haved heard the same story, with different names, several times in my travels.
        "But get this. After we all transferred en masse to the New Church, everything changed back, the one family came back, and they are all more involved than they ever were here."
        "The Lord works in mysterious ways." I said.
        "Yes He does."

        After being waited on hand and foot by Mrs. Overland for three nights, Mr. Marks' house was a whole different experience.
        "This is your bedroom. I think there's clean towels in the bathroom, if not holler and I'll fetch one for you. The toilet is a little slow flushing, don't worry about it. I'll be gone early in the morning, I've got to go into Detroit to the hospital, my sister had surgery this morning. There's stuff in the fridge for breakfast. So. You OK?"
        I nodded. "Thanks for everything. You want me to lock the place up when I leave?"
        "No. Mrs. Fogleman will be by later to clean up. She'll take care of it."
        And that was that.

        I didn't fix myself breakfast in his kitchen but left a note thanking him for everything and mentioning my prayers were with his sister. I called home on my calling card and listened as Carol brought me up to date on everything and Jay tried to get everything into two sentences.
        After I carried my suitcase out I waved to a couple walking their dog and went back into the house to fill up my mug from the never empty coffeepot. Now I could look at the travel mug and smile. Mrs. Overland was something I would probably never forget and a lesson I did not intend to repeat. Sitting in the car as it warmed up I finally looked in the envelope from last night.
        They had been generous for just one sermon. It was enough to last me several days as long as I didn't splurge or something stupid happened. "Thank you Lord. And Bless them for helping to continue my mission."
        I grabbed a bite at a fast food restaurant and headed southwest into Indiana and my target for Sunday.


        I really didn't see the piece of metal until it was too late.
        I tried to swerve but I felt the impact and heard the 'Ploomp' as the tire blew.
        Fortunately the traffic on Interstate Sixty-nine was light and I got the car to the side of the road without incident. But as I pulled off the road I noticed the car handling worse and worse.
        "No. Lord. NO." I said as I figured out what was causing it.
        The chunk of metal had gotten the front and back tire.
        The front tire was shredded. The back one had a gash in it. But it was as flat as the fast food pancakes I had eaten for breakfast. I walked the quarter mile back to the metal and picked it up before it got somebody else and maybe caused an accident.
        And so I sat there. One spare tire wasn't much help with two chewed up tires.
        In a few minutes a county sheriff's deputy stopped and turned on her overhead lights.
        "Morning Officer." I said as she walked up to the car. "I captured the suspect for you." I showed her the metal as she looked at my two dead tires.
        "It sure did a number on you." She nodded. "Where you going?"
        "A church in Huntington. I'm a preacher."
        She smiled. "God wasn't paying attention this morning was He?"
        "No ma'am. If this hadn't happened, I would never have gotten to meet you."
        "Let me call in and see if we can find a wrecker."

        The tow truck guy was delighted to join me in telling the deputy all about the Lord as he changed one tire and hooked up the car to tow into his shop where he was sure he had a used tire that would fit it to replace the other one.
        The deputy was tight lipped and nodded a lot as she waved on the curious that slowed to look.
        "Everything happens for the good of those that love the Lord." I told her. "I'm opening the revival at the Huntington Church Sunday Morning. If you're off, stop by."
        "That's fifty miles from here." She said.
        "There's a dinner afterward. You can be my guest."
        "Most churches don't approve of divorced women. And divorced women cops at that."
        "The Lord does." The tow truck guy said. "But we're ready to go."
        She nodded and walked back to the patrol car.
        "The First Christian Church. You know where it's at?" I asked her. She nodded and closed her door.
        The tow truck guy looked in the mirror of the rig at her. "Think she'll show up?"
        I shrugged. "The Lord works in mysterious ways." I said. "You coming?"
        "Count on it." He smiled. "But first we've got to get you on the road."
        The truck rumbled and crashed into gear and we were off.
        In a minute the Deputy smiled and waved as she passed us.
        Something told me I'd see her again.

        I called the car lot back home and told him about the blowouts. Then I said 'Yes Sir' a lot.
        "He wants the best tires you got to put back on it."
        "Already did Reverend Samuel. And you're getting them at cost." The shop man smiled.
        I relayed it into the phone and the owner said that was the best news he'd had in a long time. Then he wanted me to get the name and number of the shop.
        On the whole I was out a total of sixty dollars. My auto club paid for the tow, he wrote off the balancing and mounting of the tires. While they had the car up on the lift the man went all under it looking for other damage from the metal and only found a few scratches. The brake lines and shocks were all OK.
        "See. The Lord was looking out for you after all." He said shaking my hand and telling me the quickest way back to the interstate.
        I still had the three foot long piece of jagged steel for a keepsake.

Fried Chicken and God

        I was to stay in a small motel not far from the church. It was rather nice, homey place. One of those quaint motor court types that used to have a swimming pool in the middle of the courtyard.
        Now the pool was a flower garden and the sign that advertised 'Color TV' had been amended to read 'Cable TV' sometime in the last thirty years.
        It was an interesting office. With more icons and statues and pictures than some bookstores I had been in. I was given the 'Visiting Clergy' discount even though I wasn't a Catholic.
        "I don't think Christ was a Catholic either." I said with a smile putting the complimentary plastic Rosary and 'Mother Mary Loves You' booklet back on the counter.
        "Well." The man said with no expression. But never said any more about it.

        The room was small, but serviceable, and it was kind of a relief to sit and watch the local news and drink a cold ginger ale without answering questions or having to maintain a conversation. After the news I called Carol and then drove to the church to meet the minister and check out the facilities.
        It was a good-sized building, but it was cut up like nobody's business. From the outside I expected a main sanctuary that would seat maybe three hundred fifty or more. But once inside I figured it would be packed with half that.
        "How was your trip?" Reverend Miller asked me. Yes, it was Reverend Miller. That's how he introduced himself. Reverend. And he was wearing what could only be described as a Blues Brothers suit.
        "Interesting. I got to meet one of your deputies and a tow truck driver. Both were very nice about the whole thing."
        "Oh? Do tell..." He said. I go the impression he was hoping the story was a little more exciting than a flat tire. But it wasn't, and he responded with, "It's a blessing you weren't hurt or your car damaged."
        "Yes indeed. A blessing." There was something about the man I just didn't like.
        "If you are too tired to preach in the morning from your trip, I can fill in and you can do the evening service." He said with sincerity.
        "I think I'll be OK." I smiled at him and met a wall of cold hard stone.
        I had run into that from time to time. From what I understood there were at least one or two people per church that were just genuinely un-likable people. It's in the contract or something. And sometimes I met them. Usually I met the one sour old man board member that had nothing good to say about anything or anybody, no matter what it was. Or somebody that simply didn't like preachers, or thought I was making fun of or condemning them personally. Usually it wasn't the local minister that I found hard to take.
        "You have a very nice facility here." I said.
        "We work hard to keep our local church growing and working. We do it ourselves without outside help or bringing in outsiders to show us what we are doing wrong."
        Sometimes it was.
        "I won't tell you what you're doing wrong. I try to build up the church and bring them a message to help make it better."
        Reverend Miller evidently felt about the same about me. "It wasn't my idea to bring in some traveling showman. No matter how good a message he preaches." He said.
        I didn't, couldn't answer.
        After the tour he thanked me for stopping by and asked me if there was anything I needed.
        "No, sir. I've got everything back at the motel."
        I stopped and ate dinner, alone, in a diner just down the other way from the motel. After I called home again I took a long shower and turned in early with my alarm set for six AM so I could catch the 'Early Bird Breakfast' special at the diner before seven.
        The next morning I sat in a Sunday School class full of absolutely delightful people being taught by a young man that seemed to have memorized the entire Gospel of John.
        We laughed and kidded each other like we had grown up together. They were happy to have me there, and I had to turn down about nine invitations to dinner that night. I had already accepted two others.
        Before the service I saw the leadership of the church gather up front for a prayer. I would have joined them, but Reverend Miller had made a point of walking past me to walk that way, so I checked my notes and made sure I had enough 'Do Not Disturb' signs.
        When I had talked to the elder that had invited me here for their week long revival I had run through the list of my standard stuff. He had stopped me at this one and asked me several questions about it. I was doing three sermons here. This one, the dishes, and the Referee. When I asked who would be doing the rest of the week, the elder had said, "Our minister is doing a couple of them, another local pastor is preaching Friday."
        After meeting the good Reverend Miller, I thought seriously about fleeing immediately after this morning's message and skipping the luncheon afterwards.
        I had heard about some local ministers staking out their church as their turf and being very jealous about sharing 'Their Pulpit' with anybody unless they had pneumonia or something. There were stories told about a preacher that insisted on doing his Resurrection Sunday message with three broken ribs and a cracked collarbone after a car accident. He could barely speak, and when he finished he spent three days in the hospital with a collapsed lung. Another preached with a hundred and two degree fever from some sort of virus. He was delirious and spent twenty minutes re-preaching the first page of his notes over and over again.
        Was Reverend Miller one of those? No, I thought he was just xenophobic and thought I was actually an escaped Texas axe murderer. But I decided to be as respectful and polite as I could be, while staying at least halfway across the church from him.
        The opening of the service was pretty much standard. But I noticed something odd, then I realized it was the continuation of a theme from the opening of the Sunday School Hour.
        Reverend Miller introduced each part of the service, and led every prayer.
        I didn't think it odd until he prayed for the loaf and cup for the Lord's Supper, and then the elders prayed. Then he returned thanks for the offering as well.
        I leaned over and asked the Sunday School teacher if they always ran their services like this.
        "Yeah. He calls it 'directing the worship', he's been doing it since he got here."
        Maybe there was a draught in the church, I felt a chill.

        I had lined up four helpers to pass out the signs as I walked up to the stage.
        They were singing the song before the sermon. I only had a couple of minutes to bring my idea around to where I could drop a hint or three without ending up being ridden out of town on a rail.
        Was it wrong for him to lead almost every minute of the services?

        It felt wrong.
        It smelt wrong.
        It tasted wrong.
        But, By The Book... was it wrong?

        If it wasn't it was as close as you could get.

        I knew the verses I wanted to use, but I wasn't sure how to work them in without it being brutally obvious I was talking about the Good Reverend Miller. Maybe if I used one or two this morning, then another tonight, and one tomorrow... He was praying up front. I was praying in my seat.
        After the prayer and introduction I walked to the front.
        Reverend Miller's eyes were almost more than I could take and still function. The man was boiling inside.
        I was not going to openly attack him in front of his church.
        Not unless it was provoked.

        The kids passed out the Do Not Disturb signs and were returning to their seats.
        A voice broke the silence. "What are these for?"
        I stopped in mid stutter and looked out at the congregation with my notes still in my hand.
        "Just a prop for my sermon." I said. "To help make a point."
        Reverend Miller was standing there with a sign in his hand. "We do not need..." He worked on the correct sneer for the word. "... props... In This Church."
        That was it. I felt something... Bile, the Power of the Spirit, the Fire of Eternity... whatever it was, Something stirred in me.
        "I suppose you don't tell stories from the pulpit either." I said.
        "I Preach the Word." He said with an arrogance that was almost beyond belief.
        And I was off and running.

        "So then the WORD is all we should preach. Just the Word. And Nothing BUT the word..." I nodded. His glare was almost painful. "So the illustrations Christ used, the Parables of the Lord, were not needed by Him to make His points?" I didn't give him a chance to respond. "The Vision of the Sheet and the Unclean Animals Peter saw before he spoke to the Gentiles wasn't right? If the Lord Almighty had wanted Peter to go talk to Cornelius He should have just told him to go instead of using a ... ... PROP like a sheet with half a zoo on it. And while I'm at it. What business did Paul have telling us about how we are to wear Armor and Run a Race? Maybe he couldn't show them in a letter a suit of armor, but they had all seen Roman soldiers and knew what a breastplate and shield were." I caught my breath expecting Reverend Miller to say something, and he looked like he wanted to. But I plunged on before he got it out. "Jude compared non-believers to hidden reefs in the ocean waiting to smash a ship to bits in the foam of their folly."
        He got in this time. "But what you are doing with these is different. Calling attention to your toys and cute sayings instead of focusing on the Word of God."
        I looked at him. "What was my message today? What Idea from Scripture was I going to present? Which verses was I going to read? How was I going to bring these 'toys' with their 'cute sayings' into the message?"
        "How should I know? It's enough you needed them to do it."
        "I don't NEED them to do it. No more than I need a fancy non-Biblical title to preach the Word."
        "What is that supposed to mean?"
        "Find the term 'Reverend' in the New Testament."
        He squared his shoulders but didn't quote a Scripture. "It's a title of the office I hold."
        "And that office would be what?"
        "I am the Shepherd of the local Flock."
        "Then call yourself a Shepherd."
        The laughter in the room was nervous. Until then, I had almost forgotten the building was packed. It had been a debate between him and me. But now he was looking around for who had dared to snicker at his predicament.
        "I was given this Church to Oversee. I decided the Title of Reverend should be used to give the position a certain amount of dignity and resp..."
        "'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!'" I could see the verse in front of me as I recited. And I had never knowingly memorized it.
        "Amen!" Some of the men almost shouted as I finished the quote.
        "I Will Not Be Mocked In This Way." He looked around almost snarling.
        Nobody said a word. Nobody moved. He dropped my sign on the floor and walked out.

        "Go Ahead Brother Samuel. Preach your message." One of the elders said.

        Later in the fellowship hall I got a plate of fried chicken and went to sit down when I saw a familiar face. The Lady Deputy was smiling at me.
        "I heard the whole thing. If you ever want to change jobs, we could use you." She said pulling a chair out for me.

        God never ceases to amaze me.

Continued in Lord's Lunatic part 6

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