Good morning, y’all. All that is good and right with the planet has now returned. Yes, I’m taking about the return of the college football season. Months of specious speculation, prognostication and wishful thinking will be overcome by the reality of what is. Even if the current temperatures belie our return to the fall season, our hearts spring forth with the joy that comes from the memories of falls past. Will this be the year our champions return once again to their rightful status as national champions? Stayed tuned, the results will come all too fast. My team is off to a good start.
Speaking of champions of the past brings us back to our retelling of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Elder Cheatum returned to the Little Church in the Valley that Sunday to be the eyes and ears for the leadership committee with regards to the goings on with young Devin Bread. The reports that had come back to the Elders were shocking on their surface. If true, the Elders would need to find a way to manage little Devin. Elder Cheatum was determined to see if the witnesses accounts were a one time fluke, or if something was going on that was straight out of the Old Testament. Elder Cheatum was recalling Isiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”
Based on all accounts, there was no doubt that a little child had tamed one of God’s more anti-social beasts.
“Was it a fluke, a miracle, or the work of a desperate Dad using his son to keep his job”, questioned Elder Cheatum to himself. “For my money, it is a combination of Reverend Dale and the Devil”, Elder Cheatum thought as he slid into the last row.
“I think the Reverend Dale has provided the opportunity for the child to perform a bit of devilment”, the Elder thought as he surveyed the congregation, “The devilment may have a lofty goal, keeping his daddy’s job, but, the subterfuge still runs counter to the high standards of the Evangelical movement”.
As the gathering hymn played, Elder Cheatum continued to build his argument in his mind that the Bread’s were up to no good.
“Speaking in tongues and the laying of hands to heal might be easy to fake, and therefore easily used to take advantage of an unsuspecting congregation”, reasoned the Elder, “but the handling of snakes is not something one can fake, even if one is a fakir”.
“While the Devil has a long history of using snakes to do his bidding, I reject the notion that there is something more sinister here”, the Elder concluded, “Helping an eight year old to keep a few serpents under control would be ‘child’s play’ for the Prince of Darkness; I’m thinking that the only Devil at play here is Reverend Dale”.
The service was as normal as normal could be. The sermon was entitled, “The Importance of Pentecost”, and most of the followers had heard it many times before. The sermon was so well known that Elder Cheatum thought he heard Bubba Hawker’s bass voice mimicking the sermon from his place in the choir. Bubba Hawker’s attempt to rise to power was another problem that needed to be dealt with, but not today. Elder Cheatum was becoming convinced that his return to the Little Church was a waste of time when the sermon changed course.
With about ten minutes left in the sermon, Reverend Dale was struck dumb, in mid-sentence. The Reverend’s mouth was open but no sounds were coming out. The silence lasted for about twenty seconds when it was broken by the high piping voice of Devin Bread. Little Devin picked up the sermon at the exact spot that his Daddy had left off. Devin continued the sermon in his loudest voice as he made his way to the pulpit. Being too small to stand behind the pulpit, Devin stood next to his Dad and delivered the rest of the sermon, word for word, to the awestruck congregation.
The Evangelical congregation had been witness to some mighty strange and unusual events over the years, but Elder Cheatum could not recall ever having a circumstance like this before. When little Devin Bread picked up the sermon from his Dad, the entire congregation’s jaws fell slack, as if one. Elder Cheatum speculated that there must be others in the congregation, besides himself, that wondered if it was a staged event. The Elder was equally sure that there were those in attendance who believed they were watching the Second Coming. To their credit, the Breads, father and son, played the event as coolly and calmly as two seasoned Broadway performers.
At the end of the sermon, little Devin made the altar call and headed down to the floor of the auditorium in front of the pulpit. Bubba Hawker seemed to have regained his senses, or maybe it was just an involuntary response like breathing. Either way, his deep bass voice boomed out, “Love Lifted Me”, and the rafters of the church shook with the reverberations of his voice. Maybe Bubba hadn’t ciphered yet that there now appeared to be another Bread between him and his rightful inheritance, his legacy. Bubba’s call to preach where his father, grandfather and great grandfather had preached was now being blocked by an eight-year-old. Not to mention Devin’s daddy, if Reverend Dale ever regained his senses.
Little Devin did his dance of exultation with as much grace and style as one could ever imagine an eight-year-old to possess. The spirit filled dance included moves from early Michael Jackson and the character ReRun from the TV show “That’s My Momma”. The dance moves were a direct result of Bud Lite adding the Nickelodeon package to TackyToo‘s cable package. In a move designed to keep the children in the trailer park from monopolizing the big screen in the Rec room, Bud paid five dollars a month so the kids could watch wholesome shows in their own trailer. Now the congregation was watching the law of unintended consequences bust a move in front of the largely septugenarian audience.
While many in the audience felt compelled to move forward, Elder Cheatum held back. Standing with a good line of sight to the altar, the Elder could watch for any trickery. He found none. Little Devin reached into the box and went for the timber rattler first thing. Seemingly oblivious to the danger, Devin pulled out the six foot timber rattler. As Devin held the snake aloft, the audience could see that the serpent was a good bit taller than the child. No mind, Devin wrapped the snake around his neck, then he tied it in a knot around his waist like a belt. Next Devin grabbed the snake by the tail and whipped it around on the floor like he was stirring sugar into his ice tea.
At this point Elder Cheatum started thinking “ringer”. Elder Cheatum assumed that the Breads had substituted the real rattler with a very real looking rubber substitute. If it was not a substitute then the snake had been loaded up on sleeping pills. About the time that Elder Cheatum was ready to slip out and report to the other Elders that there was chicanery afoot at the “Little Church In the Valley”, one of the Elders in training reached for the snake. Waldo Inacrowd, lifelong church member and owner of the travel agency “On The Road Again”, should credit his lifetime of clean living with giving him the quick reactions that avoided a tragedy. The timber rattler took a lightning like snap at Elder Inacrowd’s face as Elder Inacrowd tried to relieve Little Devin from the serpent. The snake opened his mouth so wide Elder Cheatum could see his venom sacs from his spot in the last row.
“Well, we’ve certainly answered the question about whether the rattler is a ringer or not to my satisfaction”, thought Elder Cheatum, “There are a ton of other unanswered questions, but I know I’m not going to get to the bottom of them today”.
The Elder decided to slip away before the scene in front of the altar devolved into something out of the movie, “The Wicker Man”. He glanced back over his shoulder as he went out of the door and saw that the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread had not moved an inch from his spot behind the pulpit.
“If he is truly catatonic, somebody will call the EMT’s, I guess”, Elder Cheatum thought, “Of course, at this point, I’d say all the Reverend Dale needs is for little Devin to lay hands on him.”