Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hide and Seek (08/07/08)
TITLE: The Preacher
By Sherri Ward
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Mustering a smile, she shook a few hands before taking her usual seat toward the front, resisting an urge to sit in the back row. It wouldn’t help to attract attention. Hiding in plain sight, that’s what I’m doing, she thought. Even as the thought registered, it caused her to think of another who was doing the same – hiding in plain sight. How very clever of him.
Perhaps, she reasoned, he wouldn’t show up. Maybe the confrontation had been enough, and he would be too ashamed to show his face. Hope dashed, she stared as he entered through the side door and took his place at the podium. With a huge smile, he greeted guests and regulars alike, made a few simple announcements, and asked the choir to begin. Not a hint of chagrin.
Jan sang without her usual fervor. A heavy heart kept her from caring as much about the beautiful words of praise this morning. She looked around her at the beaming faces, all the people singing out in worship, oblivious. If they were to be told, they would not believe it. He had garnered complete trust, however unfounded.
She was in a position better than any to know. As administrative assistant in the small church, she kept the books, and just this week she had become aware that past seemingly innocent accounting errors were not innocent at all. “Leave them alone,” she had at last been flatly told. “Those people can afford a little extra. You know how the needs of the church are growing. They probably aren’t looking at their credit card statements anyway.” Excuse piled on top of excuse, and she had left the office with shock, sadness and a growing sense of indignation.
She stared disbelievingly now as the preacher, glowing and dynamic, delivered an animated, passionate plea for morality and love for God. He really loves the show, she realized. He’s running a circus. It’s all for show and he’s the star attraction. His innocent flock is really just his adoring audience – and, of course, his livelihood.
It was time for testimonies, and Sister Sarah stood up. “Oh, Pastor, I’m so thankful! We were having such a hard time since Barney lost his job and then you came over and brought us a little money, and all the prayers from all the people of this wonderful congregation – why it’s all so wonderful, I just can’t thank you enough.” As she spoke so gushingly she smiled, not only at the pastor, but at all the congregation.
“That’s true, Lord, a lot of people are helped in this ministry.” It was more of a brooding thought than a silent prayer. As Jan listened to the enthused applause, she found herself clapping half-heartedly. All along, she had been one of the pastor’s biggest fans. He had seemed so very – real. And now? “Lord, it was a lot more fun to be a cheerleader – than the whistleblower I think You are calling me to be.” She sighed heavily. This just couldn’t be happening. It had been such a joy to find this church at a dry time in her spiritual life. The fellowship was close, and the hearts of the people were melding into one.
Perhaps she should just go away quietly and try again to find a good church. The thought brought no sense of peace. Would she herself not be guilty if she knew the truth but did nothing? Didn’t the people deserve a pastor who was all they believed him to be? Didn’t they deserve to know the truth, even if the knowing produced pain and difficulty for awhile? What an awkward position to be in – having to make a decision that would certainly affect so many.
“Lord,” Jan breathed silently as church ended and people headed out the doors, “there is only one choice I can make, and that is to be obedient to You. Help me, please.”
It was a late afternoon when the doorbell rang at the parsonage. The pastor opened the door to find a police officer standing on the step. “Pastor, I have a search warrant for all your office and computer files.”
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