It was a tradition to stand by the double doors that led outside to the broad stone steps which gracefully allowed entrance into the grand old stately church as well as to bid its visitors goodbye as they once again passed through the oaken doors on their way out. And so he took his place there as the choir ended their final hymn and waited patiently for the members to pass by him and out through the opened double doors.
They weren’t long in coming, and the very first one to see was Mrs. Pelski with her husband trying to keep up with her as she made her way directly to him. One could say that she was on a collision course and he was prepared as she stopped directly in front of him with perhaps ten inches between them, and she said: “Mr. Prescott, I must say that I am somewhat disappointed in your sermon today, and I believe that I speak for the entire congregation when I say that we feel a certain lack of, shall we say, faith, in your intentions regarding this church!”
The Preacher looked at her for a moment and replied, “Mrs. Prescott, I ended my sermon less than five minutes ago, and I noticed that you had spoken to none except your husband, so how would you have me to believe that you represent the entire church?” Mrs. Pilski slowly reached up and took off her glasses and said to the Preacher, “Are you calling me a liar Mr, Prescott? How dare you make such an insinuation against my character!” The Preacher replied, “I have done neither Mrs. Pilski, but have made only an observation based on the fact that you have spoken to none other than your husband, therefore, how can you make the statement that you speak for the entire church?”
By this time their conversation had attracted about a dozen people who had stopped to listen and by doing so had created a backlog by the doors which caused the others to pause, so by and by, there was a large group forming. Mrs. Pelski was not very tall, maybe around 5′ 5″ and had her graying hair tightly pulled back into a braided tail that hung partially down between her shoulders. She was dressed in a somber colored suit that seemed to be in fashion, and her left hand held a dark brown purse. Her right hand meanwhile had taken on a threatening position as she raised it to point the finger at the Preacher and said to him, “This kind of talk will not be tolerated, Mr. Prescott! WE have hired you to maintain the traditions established in this church that our forefathers built and WE expect you to adhere to OUR rules that govern this respected establishment! I do hope that you clearly understand my words!” And with that, Mr. Pilski turned on her heels and pressed her way through the onlookers as her husband, without saying a word, followed dutifully behind her.
The next few minutes were less confrontational, more like curious and friendlier. The younger couples with their small children welcomed him and said that they were looking forward to next week’s sermon and many of the older members gave their hands and thanked him. But some, like Mr. Berkley, made it a point to completely ignore him as with rather loud coughs, made their way past him and on down the massive stone steps.
At last, he stood alone at the top of the stone steps and watched as the last pickup pulled out and right onto the main street heading into the town. The Preacher looked across the road and saw the hills rising off in the distance just beyond the river and how the sheep clouds tumbled merrily along in the early summer’s afternoon’s breeze high in the blue skies. It wasn’t going to be easy to show the people the ways of God when they had hardly known anything except tradition and watered down teachings. He knew that he had made enemies this morning and from what he had heard from others who had tried to teach the Scriptures in the old churches, he would either be forced out or forced into compromise! But the Preacher also knew that if God was with him, then nothing could stand against him.
He turned and went back inside, leaving the doors open so that the old church could breathe once again. He turned to his right and went up the broad stairs to the upper balcony where people would sit so as to look down, and there he took a seat. Leaning forward and placing his elbows on his knees, he quietly offered a prayer to the Lord God, thanking Him for this opportunity to preach the truths that the people needed to hear and praying for wisdom and guidance. He also prayed for those whom he knew were already planning for his departure or submission, that they could, if possible, repent of their hardened hearts. He also asked for more families to come because they were the strength that the older generation would need if the church were to grow as a family.
Yes, there were many who had needs, there were some who needed help, and there were some who were expecting handouts, and then there were those whom the members of the church discarded because they came from the “poorer” side of town! But the Preacher couldn’t pick and choose based on the words of a man, but rather, he had the words of God to follow, and they told him to go out to all and bring them in, rich or poor, liked or hated! He was not a Preacher for profit and neither did he care what the “others” thought of him because his only concern was to teach the people the words and the ways of the Living God.
At that moment, he saw Ed, the man who came after services with a broom in his hand to sweep up and straighten a few things. As far as the Preacher knew, Ed had been doing that over forty years and had never missed a sermon nor ever failed to sweep up. So after a couple of minutes, the preacher stood and went down the opposite stairwell to greet him and to thank him for his services and as he came around the door post which led into the sanctuary, he stopped! He saw that Ed was on his knees with upraised hands quietly praising God and not wanting to interrupt him, turned softly to go back up the stairs. But then Ed spoke, saying, “Mr. Prescott sir, please lend me your ears for a moment of time.” and looking around at the Preacher, beckoned him to take a spot near him.
Without hesitation, the Preacher walked over and knelt beside him, and then Ed spoke, saying, “I’ve been praying for over thirty years that God would send a man with convictions to this church, a man who would speak the truth from the Bible, a man who loved God and His Son, Jesus, a man who would drive out the darkness that’s been blinding this old church and keeping it dead. Today, young man, my prayer has been answered!”
The Preacher was astonished at the old man’s words, but he also knew in his heart that Ed was right. The time had come for renewal, and the song “A Wakeup Call” from the Christian group “Petra” sprang into his mind. At that, Ed spoke again, saying, “This church has been dead for so long in traditions and fed lies for years, but I knew that one day, if I didn’t give up, that God would send a man to bring us back into the light of the Gospel of Christ. Today, Mr. Prescott, you are that answered prayer. You remain strong in the faith and don’t doubt Him, and I’ll be keeping you steady in prayer as well as a few others who didn’t bow down to Baal!” And before the Preacher could say anything, Ed got slowly back on his feet, he was after all in his early eighties and began to sweep between the pews while softly humming an old hymn that the Preacher knew from the Seminary days, it was known as “Throw Out The Lifeline.
The Preacher also got upon his feet, turning, he pulled out a tissue and wiped his eyes. He knew that he was going to stay because the Lord God wanted to save his people from their sins! How Great Thou Art!