One blustery Sunday morning, not too long ago, 50 faithful followers filed into Sacred Heart Christian Church. They cheerfully greeted one another with holy hugs and handshakes, and as was his habit, Norville Knott welcomed the first-time visitors and said the opening prayer. Then, right on cue, the pipe organ burst into a rousing stanza of Count Your Blessings.
In the shadows, Pastor Godfrey Syntax silently thanked God for the privilege of pastoring this little flock, and as the final praise chorus ascended into glory, he stepped onto the stage.
"Good morning, beloved of ..." Pastor Syntax stopped in mid-sentence. A sudden tickle in his throat choked his words. His eyes itched, and his nose began to burn. He quickly pulled a monogrammed handkerchief from his pocket and awaited the inevitable outcome.
"A-a-a-a-Choo!" The pastor's amplified sneeze vibrated the walls. Later it would be said that his sneeze not only woke up Hollis Thompson, it also caused a few curious teenagers to remove their hidden ear-buds.
"God bless you," Mary Goodwyn shouted from the back pew.
"Gesundheit," chimed Mr. Schultz.
Pastor Syntax blew into the handkerchief. "Thank you so much. That sneeze sure did take me by surprise!" His animated behavior and mischievous grin indicated to the people that something was amiss.
"Now, where was I?" He scrutinized his notes. "Maybe it's best that I start from the beginning." His quick smile and confident attitude set everyone at ease.
"Good morning, beloved of God! If you have your Bible, please turn with me to Psalm 84:12." He waited as the congregation located the passage. As soon as the room quieted, he read the verse aloud, "LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you."
Pastor Syntax made eye contact with his people. "Today, I wish to speak to you about the far-flung topic of your sneeze-life."
Sniffles, snorts, and giggles rippled through the congregation.
Pastor Syntax chuckled, then continued, "Would you agree that all of us, at one time or another, have sneezed?" He caught sight of several affirmative nods.
The media team advanced the PowerPoint presentation to the next slide— FOR ALL HAVE SNEEZED.
"Please do not raise your hand, but could it be that the dilemma of sneezing applies to everyone in this room. No use denying the obvious. I mean, isn't it clear that all have sneezed? Some sneeze loudly; others sneeze quietly. Some sneeze outwardly; others sneeze inwardly. Some use tissue; others prefer a handkerchief. A sneeze is a sneeze, and I'm here to tell you—We are all sneezers!"
A few people squirmed in their seats. Carol Birdwell sheepishly glanced at her husband who was busy studying his feet.
Pastor Syntax alerted the media team, and the next slide flashed onto the screen— GOD LOVES ALL SNEEZERS.
He flipped through his notes and resumed his message. "Intermittent sneezing affects everyone. One sneeze on an airplane and you suddenly find yourself sitting alone. The other passengers look down their noses at you, certain that you have brought an infectious disease on board. Proof positive that our sneezes affect other people."
"Amen!" Mr. Lovall bellowed from the first row.
Pastor Syntax took a sip of fresh water. "In closing, for those of you who think you've hidden your sneezes. Please don't be fooled any longer. God knows you are sneezing, and due to the ever active grapevine in this church, everyone else knows it too. I know the situation seems hopeless, but I have marvelous news. GOD LOVES ALL SNEEZERS. He loves loud sneezers, sneezers who sneeze into the collar of their t-shirt, and he even loves sneezers who fail to cover their nose when they sneeze. Some people say that you must stop sneezing before you receive God's love. False! God loves us, mucus and all. Will you accept his gift today? Will you allow him to clean up your sneeze-life? I promise, you will never regret it!"
"Amen," The organist whispered as she began a soft rendition of Just As I Am.
Pastor Syntax closed with a simple prayer and waited for God's people to respond.
Revival broke out at Sacred Heart Christian Church that day. Many people received God's gift of love. They still struggle with sneezes, but are fully convinced that God loves them anyway. Every Sunday morning 100 faithful followers file into the worship center. They greet one another with holy hugs and handshakes, and continue to grow in God's grace.
Allegory based on the following scripture:
Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
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