Good morning, y’all. The news coming out of Florida is about what you’d expect. Disney is quietly putting up fencing and signage to correct a situation they ignored. I suspect, that legally, it will be too little too late to compensate the family for the horror of losing their two year old. The courts in Florida are traditionally very kind to Disney, so maybe a change of venue is appropriate. Maybe a jury somewhere up North where a primeval predator would not be considered a mere nuisance, but an actual menace, would be the appropriate court to decide Disney’s liability.
Speaking of primeval leads back to the telling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. On the fifth night of Summer Revival 2010, the Little Church in the Valley has made it successfully through the first act of the revival meetings scheduled for the evening. Elder Cheatum glances about the parking lot and watches the attendees grabbing Pepsi Colas, fruit cups, snow cones, whatever they can before heading back into the tents for round two. The Elder takes a deep breath and prepares himself for anything and everything. As the Elder took his place in the last row of Tent number one, the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone’s piano player started playing a song that the Elder was unfamiliar with. The chorus of the song went something like:
“Someone’s been healed today
A miracle passed your way
Who touched my clothes?
You now are made whole
Step forward and claim
Your faith has pulled you through
Your healing has come to you
You can receive today
Right now, in Jesus Name”
The Elder couldn’t concentrate too much on the lyrics because he was stunned by the appearance of Hap T. Johnstone. The Right Reverend was dressed as if he were about to perform surgery. There he stood, on the stage at a Pentecostal revival in a full set of hospital scrubs. Hap’s outfit was the complete set of “greenies”, including cap and mask. The Elder quickly realized it was the gloves that Hap was after, and that the rest of the outfit was a diversion. The Elder settled back into his seat to see if Hap was going to be able to pull this one off.
There could be a lot of things said about the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone, but showman had to be at the top of the list. The Right Reverend pulled down his mask, and slid back his cap, like a surgeon that was about to deliver fatal news to the next of kin. The Right Reverend went into his sermon entitled, ‘The Healing Powers of Jesus”. Hap delivered the sermon like a man that felt the devil’s pitchfork at his backside punctuating each word. Hap’s words carried an extra passion tonight, and the Elder suspected that it was to convince the audience of the need for his garb, and not the truth of the message.
At the ten minute break the piano player started playing, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”. Hap strode around the stage singing the hymn at the top of his lungs. He nearly tripped one of the Heavenly Hummingbirds with the microphone cord as he rushed back to the pulpit at the end of the last verse. Without a break, Hap started into the next segment of his sermon. Hap had not taken his “booster” pill at the break, but only those closest to him would have noticed. The next twenty minutes were filled with the evils of modern medicine with special disdain shown for Obamacare. Hap even ventured into the grey area of state supported healthcare being against the natural order of things, of subordinating God’s will.
At the twenty minute mark, Hap shrugged his shoulders and the piano player started playing, “The Blood Will Never Loose Its Power”. Hap leaned into the microphone, and instead of singing along with the Heavenly Hummingbirds, Hap made an impassioned plea to the audience as the Elders started passing the collection plate.
“Many of you have come here tonight expecting a miracle, expecting to be made whole through the power of Jesus as delivered by his humble servant.” “I know that it’s hard to put a price on being healed, of being made well, but the people that wear the clothes I’m wearing tonight can put a price on making you well.” “I’m not asking you to pay that price, but I am asking you to dig deep into your pockets and give all you can give.” “It’s long been said, ‘The Lord helps those that help themselves’, “I ask that you help yourself tonight by giving all you can so we can continue to bring the healing grace of Jesus to this community.”
The Right Reverend walked to the little table setup with pitchers of water and lemonade and poured himself a large lemonade before returning to the pulpit. He returned to the microphone in time to sing the last verse of the hymn with his backup singers. Taking in a deep breath, Hap delivered the last ten minutes of his sermon in a voice that seemed to be possessed. It was not the voice that Hap used for his bouts of glossolalia, but a higher pitched version. The voice was not quite “high school girl squeal”, but it was close.
The voice was so disconcerting that it was hard to follow the message. The Elder gleaned that the essence of the sermon was to trust your healer not your doctor. “Cancer required miracles, not radiation.” “Only modern medicine argues that they have to make you sicker before they can make you better.” “Jesus brings instant relief.”, and so on.
With a shrug of Hap’s shoulders, the piano player started playing, “Nearer My God To Thee”, and Hap moved to the floor for the Testament of Faith. Hap’s security passed him a corn snake and Hap grabbed it with his gloved hands and started his “Circle of tongues”. The serpent did his part, slipping his tongue out at every opportunity, looking as menacing as a corn snake can look. Hap was having a hard time keeping up his end, though. Hap’s arms were shaking violently as he held the serpent aloft as he made his pass. The Right Reverend’s tongues were equally disconnected with the words of the ancients interspersed with the words of the drunken sailor on leave in the Phillipines.
What started as a Testament of Faith, interspersed with spirit filled speech, evolved into a full blown bout of Tourette’s syndrome. The afflicted that had been lined up in both aisles dispersed rapidly to avoid the filth being spewed from the mouth of the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone. Elder Cheatum went against the tide as he made his way up the aisle to the stricken minister. The faithful were leaving the tent as quickly as the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. Only his status in the community kept the Elder from being swept off of his feet and carried out of the tent by the tidal wave of humanity.
Elder Cheatum reached the Right Reverend and looked about for any of Hap’s entourage. Hap’s security seemed frozen in place. After repeated urging, the Elder was able to get two of Hap’s security guards to take Hap’s arms and legs and carry Hap out of the tent. Hap’s scrubs were covered in sweat and his pancake makeup was leaving his face in chunks. Hap’s security carried the raving minister inside the tour bus and laid him on the sofa. Elder Cheatum looked about the interior of the bus and marveled at its opulence. The Elder also marveled at who was missing from the little tableau. Ms. Leer was nowhere in sight.
The call to 911 was made from Elder Cheatum’s cell phone. The EMT’s arrived in about twelve minutes. A quick assessment was made, and the Right Reverend was carried through the tour bus door and strapped to a gurney. As the ambulance crew were strapping the Right Reverend into the ambulance, Crystal Leer appeared. Explaining her relationship to the stricken minister, the EMT’s allowed Ms. Leer to ride with them to Blairsville General. As the ambulance headed off into the night, Elder Cheatum started the phone tree for an emergency meeting of the committee. This one could not wait until tomorrow. The Elder headed back towards the rectory to put on a pot of coffee. This was going to be a long one.