Good morning, y’all. While fires rage in the West, the mid west is being deluged by tornadoes, torrential rains and high winds. The polar caps continued to melt, and the snow is pink because an algae is growing in it. If you were a believer in such, it’s like Nostradamus has been reincarnated in the body of Al Gore. I mean, how else do you explain all of Gore’s predictions from “An Inconvenient Truth” coming true, unless he is somehow supernatural and connected to Vishnu? I mean there’s science, but science can’t be used to explain things, even when it does. There has to be an interpreter of events that is connected to the spiritual. Right?
Anyway, explaining things through spiritual interpretation brings us back to our retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is the last night of Summer Revival 2010 and Reverend Daniel Hawker is opening for the presumptive new pastor of the little church in Tent number one. As Reverend Daniel entered the tent from the back he could hear Elder Cheatum addressing the crowd.
“I’m sure all of you know, but if you don’t, one of the purposes of this specific revival was to help our little church find a new minister.” “We have been blessed for many, many years to have the Hawker family minister to us, but now it looks like it will be coming to an end.” “We have gathered together some mighty fine ministers for you to hear, to watch, and to feel the power within them as they blessed you with their healings.” “While we are sad to say that one of the ministers, the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone has been struck down, and is unable to speak before you tonight, we feel that his loss was the Lord’s way of pointing us in the right direction.”
“Praise God!” is yelled from somewhere in the audience and echoed as a murmur throughout the crowd.
“Praise God!” said Elder Cheatum before continuing. “We feel very strongly that the minister selection committee was guided to the selection of Reverend Dale E. Bread as our new minister by the hand of God.” “As a result, we’ve asked Reverend Bread to be the keynote speaker, here, tonight.” “Some of you may have already witnessed Reverend Bread’s gifts this week, and I think you’ll agree with me, he’s something special.” “We hope you will welcome him to our community and include him in your prayers.”
Elder Cheatum looked out at the crowd of five hundred souls, many whispering “amen” as the Elder returned to his speech. “But first, a man who needs no introduction, Reverend Daniel Hawker”.
As Reverend Daniel walked up to the pulpit, the Little Church in the Valley choir began to sing “Nearer My God to Thee”. There was a twinge of sadness as Reverend Daniel heard his son, Bubba, lead the choir with his perfect bass voice:
“Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee.”
Reverend Daniel joined in as best he could with his voice strained to the breaking point by his years of cigarette smoking. “Better save it for the sermon”, the Reverend thought when he gave up singing the hymn on the second verse. As he looked out over the crowd, recognizing old friends, and their children and their grandchildren, the Reverend was almost struck speechless by the gravity of the moment.
Reverend Daniel looked down at his 3×5 cards and began: “‘It’s Not an Easy Road’ that has led us here tonight, and it will not be an easy road as we continue our journey to the shores of the Jordan River, but, I’m here to tell you that if you continue on the straight and narrow, we will all meet again in the Promised Land.”
Cries of “Amen” and “Praise God” echoed through the crowd and Reverend Daniel was off and running. He spoke for forty minutes straight before calling for the choir to spell him for a bit by singing “The Old Rugged Cross.” The Elders took the cue, and began passing the collection plate while Reverend Daniel drank hot tea with lemon to rejuvenate his voice. As he started into his last few minutes, Reverend Daniel seemed to lose the thread of his sermon a bit as he started recalling lyrics to a “Long and Winding Road”, to emphasize his points.
“The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
Leads me to your door.”
The congregation didn’t seem to notice, or attributed the possessive pronoun, “your”, as referencing Jesus’s door. Either way, the Testament of Faith was preformed with many long standing church members passing the serpents back and forth with the Reverend while they tap danced about the space in front of the stage. There were many people in the aisles, but they were more well wishers than seeking healing. The crowds thinned quickly and Reverend Daniel headed back to the pulpit. “Now folks, before I bring out Reverend Bread, I just wanted to remind you all there’s services tomorrow, same as always, and I expect to see all of you there. Reverend Daniel turned to walk away as Reverend Bread bounded onto the stage like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
The choir started singing “Amazing Grace”, and Reverend Bread hit the “how sweet the sound”, slightly behind the choir to further emphasize the phrase. He did that with each verse, and, while it stole a little thunder from the choir, it placed emphasis on the verses that were central to Reverend Bread’s message. “A wretch like me”, “but now am found”, “but now I see” were themes in the Reverend’s message. Reverend Bread took a common everyday hymn, known the world over, and XXX the verses to deliver a powerful message
“A wretch like me” – we are all born sinners undeserving of God’s love.
“But now am found” – like lost lambs, we can be brought into the fold through Christ’s love.
“But now I see” – the blindfold that society’s many trappings placed over our eyes has been removed and now we can see the path to righteousness.
From Elder Cheatum’s vantage point he couldn’t tell if Reverend Bread had prepared the sermon, or if it was extemporaneous. If the Reverend had pulled this oratory out of his hat, it was a corker. A preacher that could take a hymn, an “old standard” even, and turn it into a meaningful sermon, was quite a find. Not too mention that there were hundreds of hymns that could be borrowed as themes. If true, it was like the height of brilliance coupled with extreme laziness.
Reverend Bread interspersed his sermon with glossolalia, and the occasional tap dance, while calling to the crowd, “Can I get an amen?”. To which he could, from the many followers immersed in the Reverend’s performance. It was a stellar presentation, and the break set aside for the collection came quickly. As the Elders passed through the crowd overseeing the collection plates moving from member to member, Reverend Bread beseeched the faithful with every fiber of his being to dig deep, and not be “stingy with the Lord”. The Testament of Faith was carried off with great precision, and Elder Cheatum was surprised to see a few of the old timers put their trust, and their lives, in the hands of the new pastor.
The aisles were filled with pilgrims seeking relief from their ailments. Elder Cheatum suspected that the attendees of Tent number two and Tent number three were filing into Tent number one to get their issues addressed. “That’s fine”, the Elder thought, “if they get something out of it, maybe we’ll see them in church on Sunday.” The Elder calculated the new reverend had at least two hours of healing ahead of him if he tried to help everybody. “I believe I’ll leave him to it”, the Elder thought.
As he reminded himself that there was one more workday in this week, the Elder headed back to the rectory. The selection committee was sitting on the front porch, all enjoying lemonades.
“Well, what’s the plan?” Elder Cheatum asked as he poured himself a lemonade from the pitcher.
“I’m thinking we let the Ladies Auxillary do their cleanup and turn out the lights,” said Reverend Daniel. “They can just put everything that doesn’t sell back here in the rectory like they’ve been doing, and lock it all up.” “We’ll strike the tents tomorrow after church.” “I’ll stick around and wait for our new preacher to finish up.” “I’m right impressed with our choice, gentlemen.” “I think we’ve outdone ourselves.”
“Well, we’re glad you’re glad”, Elder Wiley said. “Change is not easy, particularly for an old coot.” The group let the challenge go unmet. They were just too darn tired to call each other old coots. They had another big day facing them, but at least, they thought, “We can stick a fork in Summer Revival 2010.” It was done.