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“Whatcha doin’, Billy?”
Seven year old Billy shot a stern look of disapproval at his younger sister. She was such a pest! The sound of a vacuum cleaner in the church vestibule gave him the confidence that Mom could not hear him. She was too busy cleaning the church which gave Billy the courage to respond to his sister a bit more honestly than he otherwise could.
“Are you stupid or somethin’?” he asked, knowing that, for Cindy at least, the answer sure wasn’t ‘something’. “I’m preachin’! That’s what I’m doin’.”
“You can’t preach! You’re just a kid!”
“Can too! I’m standing at the pulpit ain’t I? So I CAN preach!” He slapped his hand on the top of the pulpit to drive his point home like he had seen his father do so many times as the pastor of the little Covenant Congregation Church.
“Daddy doesn’t want us behind the pulpit.” Cindy said, with a quiver in her voice as though she was about to be caught as an accessory to the crime.
“He lets visiting preachers preach.” Billy insisted. “I’m a visiting preacher.”
“Okay, Smarty Pants! Prove it! Preach a sermon right now… a REAL sermon!” Cindy plopped down on the pew right in front of the pulpit. She picked up a song book to use as her Bible. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a real Bible because she couldn’t read yet, anyway. “Okay, I’m ready. Preach… and it better be good or I’m gonna tell Daddy you were at the pulpit!”
Billy tried shooting another stern look but he knew he had been cornered. He had no choice. His father had warned him about the serious responsibility of being a preacher. Neither one of the kids were allowed to even be on the platform, let alone behind the pulpit. He’d get tanned for sure if Cindy told on him.
“Okay, okay!” Billy swallowed hard and tried to remember some of the lines Daddy used when he was preaching. “Turn with me to the book of Jonah in the Whale.”
Cindy turned the pages of the songbook. This was going to be fun, she thought.
Billy opened the Bible that was always on the pulpit. He cleared his throat and acted like he was reading. “Says here,” he began, trying to lower his falsetto voice to match his father’s deep resonance, “Says ‘And Jesus sent an angel to tell Cindy she is a pest and…”
“That’s not what the Bible says! Jesus wouldn’t send an angel to say that!”
“How do you know what Jesus would say?”
“Miss Carla said in Sunday school that Jesus loves the little children.” She looked Billy right in the eyes. “She said it doesn’t matter if we are kids or grownups. Doesn’t even matter if are hard to love. Jesus loves us anyway, even if we act like a bully. He loves us, Billy. You AND me!’
Although she hadn’t left much room to do it, Billy knew it was time for him to save face. He turned the pages of the Bible and tried to re-start his interrupted message. “In the book of Rebelations…” He stopped mid sentence. Something Cindy had said was stuck in his thoughts and he couldn’t think of anything else. “Cindy?” he queried, with a tenderness that Cindy rarely saw in her brother.
“What?” Cindy knew her brother. His voice didn’t sound like the bossy Billy she knew.
“Cindy, you said Jesus loves us even if we act like a bully.” He paused, swallowed, then continued. “Do you think I am a bully?”
“I don’t mean to be a bully. I really do want to be a preacher someday.”
“Why?” Cindy asked..
“Because I like the idea of telling people about Jesus like Daddy does.”
“Well, you won’t get people to care about Jesus if you keep saying things that aren’t really in the Bible. Besides,” she said “it won’t do any good to tell about the love of Jesus if you can’t SHOW the love of Jesus.”
“I know. That’s what bothers me about what you said. If you think I am a bully, I’m sorry.” He closed the Bible on the pulpit. “I really am sorry.”
“Ya know somethin’?” Cindy asked.
“I think you really might be a preacher someday.” She got to her feet and started toward the back of the sanctuary. Then she turned and smiled at her brother.
“You might be a preacher someday,” she repeated, “but not today!”
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Gerry, I really loved this story. There is something about the honesty of children that cuts right to the chase. You had the voices of the kids just right (though maybe Cindy was just a tad old sounding for her years). You even had the right seven year old "I can so do it" attitude with Billy. The touch of fear that they knew they shouldn't be near the pulpit was good too. Sometimes God uses something a little child says to cut us to the quick, even if we are only seven years old. It was nice to see Billy listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit even if he didn't realise that's what it was. Yeah, I think Billy will make a fine preacher one day.