Good morning, y’all. We got a little liquid sunshine today and it has helped to cool things off a bit. All of the flora appreciated the drink, as well as the fauna, too. I have reached my self imposed exile from landscaping duties. No new projects, maintenance only. Maintenance is strictly between the hours of 8AM to 10AM and 4PM to 6PM. No point in tempting the grim reaper.
Discussion of the grim reaper is a great way to segue into the retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. When we left our story, the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnson was leading the congregation in a robust version of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. At the end of the final verse, Hap raised his hands to mid-shoulder height and lowered them, signifying to the audience, and his entourage that it was time to sit down. In a voice trained by graduate level public speaking courses, Hap went into sermon number one, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”.
For ten minutes straight, hardly catching a breath, Reverend Hap spoke about the importance of obtaining the friendship of the man from Galilee. Then, as if struck by lightning, the Right Reverend stood straight as a board, his eyes fixed on some remote object, and the Right Reverend “spoke in tongues” for three minutes. No words were decipherable, no language or languages discerned, just the physical manifestation that the holy spirit was in attendance at this revival, and was making his presence know through his disciple Hap T. Johnson.
When defined by linguistic experts, Glossolalia or “speaking in tongues”, is the melodious vocalizing of speech-like sounds that are incomprehensible to the listener. When defined by members of the Pentecostal faith, they reference the Bible passage Acts 2:1-4, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”. When defined by the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnson, it meant a break in the action and the opportunity to refresh himself with whatever libation was available.
The crowd waited patiently for the Right Reverend to compose himself. After a couple of minutes, he charged back into his sermon as if there had been no break. For the next twenty minutes the Right Reverend extolled the importance of having Jesus for a friend. Jesus could “protect us from all harm” and “pave the path to prosperity” for those who were ready to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. After twenty minutes the Right Reverend was ready for another little break, and so, with a shrug of his shoulders he started the piano player into a medley of gospel songs. The Right Reverend began the chorus of the “Old Rugged Cross”, and then let The Hummingbirds take over for the next ten minutes. The musical interlude was the perfect opportunity to pass the collection plate, and the Elders of the Little Church in the Valley worked swiftly and unobtrusively to complete their mission. Hap reached into his vest pocket and swallowed his anti-anxiety pill. After taking a big chug of water, Hap T. Johnson was ready to “bring it home” for the final ten minutes.
Having convinced his audience of the importance of having Jesus for a friend, Hap spent the next ten minutes describing the horrible loss in this life, and the next, of Jesus’s friendship. The horrors described in this life rivaled the tribulations of Job. One could expect ailments and afflictions coupled with crushing poverty if one couldn’t “get right with Jesus” today. The horrors for the next life were incomprehensible, with living in a lake of fire almost sounding like a condo on the beach by comparison. Hap T. Johnson was at his best when describing the pains of eternal damnation. By the time he had finished his last segment, the audience was primed for the altar call and testament of faith.
Once again, the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnson shrugged his shoulders and the piano player broke into “Love Lifted Me”. The Hummingbirds broke into song behind him as Hap pulled the microphone loose from the pulpit, and carried it with him down to the floor in front of the altar. Hap’s most trusted security guard reached into the wooden crate painted white with “Private Property of Hap T. Johnson Ministries” stenciled in black on the side. The head of security reached into the crate and selected a sluggish, well fed corn snake to pass to the Right Reverend. Mustering all of his courage and love for the coin of the realm, Hap took the snake and began his “tap dance for Jesus” while hollering out whatever scriptures popped into his brain. After making a single pass of area between the aisles and the first row, Hap returned the snake to his security man and called into the microphone, “Who’s ready to accept Jesus into their souls?”.
Lines were formed in both aisles, and security filled the queue in front of the Right Reverend to pass the lost souls back for Redemption. People who were requesting healings were pre-screened in line, and were pinned with a colored ribbon that indicated the body part or disease that needed to be exorcised. To the audience, the Right Reverend looked prescient when he announced to the audience what the afflicted were suffering from. The infirmed’s contact information was gathered to facilitate being added to the Right Reverend’s prayer list, and by extension, solicitation of donations for the ministry.
The lines going down both aisles looked endless, and the Right Reverend suspected that there were followers sneaking in from the other tents, hoping to take advantage. Security, and the Elders, were supposed to be keeping things straight, but, sinners can be very resourceful. The plans were to pass out blessings for an hour before wrapping up the meeting with a prayer. To the Right Reverend’s skilled eye, there appeared to be at least two hours of “laying hands” as fast as he could lay them. This overflow condition created the opportunity to do private healings, which could be very lucrative. Hap would not slow his process to create additional opportunities, but he would also not work overtime to catch up. His contract specified one hour, and one hour it would be.
At the end of the “hour of healing”, the Right Reverend waved his hand above his head and the piano player began playing, “Just As I Am”. The Heavenly Hummingbirds picked up the cue, and Reverend Hap headed back up the steps to the stage. Placing the microphone back in its stand at the pulpit, the Right Reverend looked out over the audience and beamed brightly. “I think we’ve made a good start you all, and I hope you can come back tomorrow night and share in the miracles we’re about to perform.” Reverend Hap waved goodbye and he and his entourage exited the tent. Feeling particularly gregarious, Hap decided to work at the gift booth signing his name to memorabilia. An autograph was ten dollars, whether it went in a Bible or on a sea shell with the sign of the Crucifixion. The requests Hap received for healings were passed off to his scheduler. Hap sought out Elder Cheatum for an accounting of the collection. Once Hap was satisfied with the accounting, Hap collected his share in cash and headed back to his bus for the night.