Pastor Zonzeck is one of the good guys. On the occasions I have been assigned to cover his church goings-on I have heard uplifting music and experienced a loving ambiance, especially during their fancy doughnuts and gourmet coffee fellowship breaks.
I am a reporter for the local newspaper. Religion is the name of my beat. I’ve seen it all – or at least I thought so until Rev Zee, as we affectionately call him, brought a gun to service and changed the whole complexion of congregating as usual.
It may have been coincidental that I was in the last pew that Sunday, but then again, I don’t really believe in coincidences. I do believe in Divine intervention.
Adam Zonzeck and I work out in the same gym. A few weeks before the incident, I was loping down the treadmill trail to nowhere when I noticed he had pushed the off button on his machine and just stood there.
In a few seconds, with the most enigmatic smile, he simply walked off to the showers. It was the following Sunday that I was witness to a very un-churchy thing.
The choir sang with great gusto. The messenger of announcements didn’t miss a note. The deacons and collection plates zipped up and down pew rows with the precision of a drill team. Everything was predictable and comfortable and non-threatening; that is, until Rev Zee roared in from the back, robes billowing behind him, Bible hugged to his chest. I’m not sure, but I thought I saw combat boots under his vestments.
This true man of God gripped each side of the carved oak pulpit and stared at his congregation. After eternal-seeming seconds, he relaxed and held his hands out as if offering something invisible to us. No throat cleared. No baby whined. No paper rustled.
Sister Thelma sat straight as an arrow with her little blue-veined hands poised over the organ keyboard. When Rev Zee finally spoke, he startled her so much she hit several distorted chords and two bass pedals at the same time. That only increased the drama of the moment.
The strange-acting pastor pulled an old alarm clock from the inner sanctum of the ornate oak podium. Its irritating clang was loud enough to wake the dead. That was his plan.
As soon as he shut the thing off the silence was deafening. Like an unexpected storm, his voice boomed -- somewhat like Moses might have sounded with the unrepentant Israelites.
“IT IS TIME!”
He certainly had our attention.
“Week after week I have shared the Gospel with you. You have been fed, but you do not grow.”
He stopped and seemed to scan every face.
“I have performed marriages and baptisms. I have counseled you and buried your dead and comforted your families. Somehow though, we still seem to act like the world. I don’t understand.”
There were a few audible gasps when he placed what looked like a small gun on the edge of the pulpit.
“We are wasting life’s precious hours and minutes. I propose a change. We don’t need any more parties or dinners. There are better ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.”
There were a few nods.
“If you want your ears tickled and your ego stroked, this is the wrong place for you. From now on, I intend to preach the embracing of HOLINESS.
He reached for the weapon.
“Please don’t be offended. I am trying to make a visible, unorthodox point about dying to self and loosening the dirt-grip of unacknowledged sin.”
He squeezed the trigger. Instead of a sickening blast, a stream of soapy looking water shot all over him. Some members laughed, some cried, a few left.
“I will not appear to hide behind anything. I will preach the WORD and we will follow the WORD!”
Two big guys moved the gigantic dark pulpit to the side and replaced it with a small acrylic one. Sister Thelma revved up the keyboard with what sounded like a rousing march. The air of rejoicing may have been relief that the gun was a water pistol, or simply agreement with the Shepherd of the flock.
“Now, you’re dismissed. Go eat the last of those doughnuts.”
As he bounded up the aisle, eyes straight-ahead, and wearing the faint shadow of a grin, he aimed a shot at my unclean heart.
“Come on, Pal,” he called, without looking back, “There’s work to be done.”
He had made his point. I followed.
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