Good morning, y’all. A bit of the tropical storm has been kind enough to drop some moisture on our area. I don’t know if the rain or the laser like heat has brought on my Gardenias, but they are in full bloom. Just like that, go to bed and they’re all green, wake up and they’re practically all white. Mulva appreciates their odor very much. I do not. I remember an experience with the perfume “Jungle Gardenia” which does not bear repeating in mixed company.
What does bear repeating is the story of the Little Church in the Valley. When we had left our story, it is night three of Summer Revival 2010. The Reverend Brighton Early has just finished in Tent number one, and the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone is striding up to the pulpit. With a shrug of Right Reverend Johnstone’s shoulders, the piano player begins the first few notes of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Hap and the Heavenly Hummingbirds join in and Hap strides back and forth exalting the congregation to join in.
“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.“
Elder Cheatum noticed that the Right Reverend’s face seemed redder tonight than in previous encounters. It was true that Hap was really working the crowd during the hymn, but the Right Reverend’s color was visibly different. Since Elder Cheatum was in the last row of the tent, he was not close enough for a diagnosis. The Elder made a mental note to talk to Hap personally before the night ended.
Hap strode back to the pulpit just as the song ended. He straightened the knot on his Burberry London Manstron stripe silk tie and leaned forward into the microphone. “Mine eyes – have seen – the coming – of the Lord”. “Praise God!” Hap then proceeded to launch into his night three sermon entitled, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. For the next ten minutes the Right Reverend likened the earthly plane to a battlefield that had to be won before claiming victory in Heaven. As usual, Hap broke into speaking tongues at the ten minute mark. On this night, however, Hap wandered from the pulpit as he worked through his bout of glossolalia. The Right Reverend wandered towards the back of the stage and appeared to be scratching his chest and neck while shouting out in the voices of the ancients. Eventually, Hap returned to the pulpit, and settled into the next part of his sermon.
For the next twenty minutes Hap pleaded with the congregation to be Christian Soldiers, fighting sin and inequity wherever they may find it. “Do not shy away from the fight if the fight is just!” Hap entreated. “Do not let the Atheists and gays and New World Orderers take the hill of Calvary without a fight!” The Right Reverend punctuated every charge to the crowd with a pump of an upraised fist. “Do not let the secular humanists tell you when and how you can pray!”, Hap continued, “And stop the murder of unborn children in the womb!”
Hap had worked himself into such a state he almost forgot his cue. The Right Reverend took a breath, shrugged his shoulders. and the piano player started into “Onward Christian Soldiers”. Hap turned from the congregation to retrieve his anti-anxiety pill from his vest pocket, and, horror of horrors, he dropped it. Absolute panic overtook the Right Reverend. He dropped to his knees and felt about as best as he could for the little white pill. Just as Hap was about to burst into tears over the loss of his pill, he found it. With a brief thanks to whatever powers there may be, Hap popped the pill in his mouth and tried to look like he was rising up from prayer.
While Hap was searching for his calmative agent, the Elders of the church were passing through the congregation searching for the only thing that would calm the wolves at the door. Money. It was a good thing the folks were well trained, because there was nothing coming from the pulpit that let the congregation know that they were supposed to dig, and dig deep, for the privilege of listening to the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone. Elder Cheatum made another note. The Elder knew it had been part of the Revival Ministers Handbook, he just couldn’t figure out why Hap was leaving out the plea. It was particularly curious since the Right Reverend was getting a cut of the gate. Curious indeed.
Hap T. Johnstone used his last ten minutes to call on the assembled to enlist in the Army of the Lord. There was no task that was too great to accomplish by the Soldiers of Christ. When done, the sanctified would sit on the right side of God for time everlasting. “All you need to do to enlist in the Army of the Lord is to come on down to the altar and give your life and soul to Jesus”, “Life everlasting awaits you.”, Hap assured the audience. He shrugged his shoulders and the piano player started playing, “Fight the Good Fight”. As Hap moved down to the floor to preform the Testament of Faith, he glanced at the aisles. From the crowds filling the aisles, it looked like a lot of folks were spoiling for a good fight.
The Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone reached for the snake being handed to him by his security guard. It was a well fed, red boa, and looked enough like a copperhead to fool city folk. Hap held the snake above his head and started his circle of tongues. Hap would speak in tongues, and the boa would stick his out. As Hap returned to the altar he brought the snake from above his head to hand it to his security. Suddenly, Hap was overtaken by the overwhelming urge to scratch, and he completely dropped the snake. Hap’s security guard pounced on the snake like it was a live grenade, which should have been a giveaway to anyone familiar with handling poisonous snakes. The snake was recovered and placed back in the proper box.
The people with the best view of the mishap were up front giving their personal details to Hap’s entourage before being added to the “healing” lines. If they noticed the miscue, no one mentioned it. No one wanted to jinx their chances of being cured of their ailment. Hap appreciated their devotion, and did his dead level best to let the Lord work through him to effect some relief for these people. Hap prayed that some of the healing power would stay with him and cure the infernal rash that was taking over his body. If the malady did not cease soon, Hap might be forced to cancel the balance of the revival. It would be a financial disaster, and Hap was loathe to think about the consequences, short term and long term.
The Right Reverend did his best to bring relief to the poor souls gathered in front of him for the next hour. Hap waved his hand over his head signalling his piano player to start playing the sendoff, “Jesus Paid It All”. The Heavenly Hummingbirds were singing in perfect harmony as Reverend Hap headed back up the steps to the stage. The Right Reverend looked out over the audience as he placed the microphone back in its stand. “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 said as he waved goodbye to the crowd.
Hap and his entourage exited the tent with Hap speed walking back to the tour bus. Elder Cheatum had questions, but he reckoned they’d wait for the light of day. It had been a long day, and there was no point stirring up the pot this late at night.