“Do you believe what the Scriptures say?” Pastor Edwards’ voice boomed across the small auditorium as he addressed the members of his flock. His sermon was hitting home and his people were clearly appreciative and responsive. Slipping off his spectacles, he cleaned them with the silk handkerchief that was always left beside the preacher’s glass of water. Then, shuffling his notes to find his place, he continued on with point number seven. He could feel the anointing resting powerfully upon him and he was tempted to skip straight ahead to the altar call.
Pastor Edwards was a conscientious man but also a little naïve. As is often the case with preachers and their congregations, his own perception as to how the sermon was going was not always shared by those who came to listen to him.
What the ten-year-old thought:
“That’s the fifth time this morning that he’s cleaned his glasses. And he’s already up to fifteen sips of water ...”
What the retired deacon thought:
“There he goes again. Huffing and puffing and making a fool of himself. Asking stupid questions and treating us like a pack of simpletons. Humph. It was never like this in Pastor Green’s day. Now there was a man who could open up the Scriptures and have you hanging on every word ...”
What the deputy usher thought:
“I do wish he would hurry up and finish. The notices took forever this morning and there was no need to take quite so long over the children’s talk. Honestly, the service should have finished ten minutes ago. My mother-in-law will make a right fuss if we’re not there to open the front door for her ...”
What the teenage boy thought:
“She really is drop-dead gorgeous. Maybe I could ask for her number ... no, she might laugh at me. I could pass her a note ... that might work. But I’m not sure if her name is Anna or Hannah. I’ll look real thick if I get that wrong ...”
What the teenage girl thought:
“I do wish that creep would stop staring at me. I’d rather join a convent than be seen dead with that loser. I mean, pimply or what? Now that guy on the guitar is a different matter. I wouldn’t mind him giving me a few lessons ...”
What the sound engineer thought:
“I wish someone would tell the pastor that his tie doesn’t go with his suit. How can his wife let him climb into the pulpit looking like that? It’s an embarrassment. Mind you, so’s the state of this sanctuary. Has no one noticed the wine stains on the carpet beside the communion table? And the crayon marks by the door to the crèche? Is everyone blind in this place except me?”
What the visitor thought:
“What am I doing here? Why I let myself be talked into coming? The last time I heard so many thous was when Sarah and I went to watch Romeo and Juliet. And I haven’t the foggiest what it means to ‘gird about my loins’ ...”
What the church treasurer thought:
“Six letters, son of Jacob … could be Simeon or Reuben. The ‘b’ would fit with Bethany but the ‘e’ would equally be for Emmaus. I can’t for the life of me remember which was closer to Jerusalem. I do wish the office staff would make these bulletin puzzles easier ...”
What Mrs Moffat thought:
“Hallelujah, Jesus. Thank you for speaking to me through this man. I am truly blessed, Lord. I was frustrated and angry when I walked through those doors. But your servant here has ministered peace to my soul. Bless you, Jesus ...”
One hundred and forty-two people shook hands with the pastor on the way out. Each one thanked him for his sermon and promised to come again the following week. Pastor Edwards took their comments at face value and went home feeling encouraged. What he failed to grasp was that their words had 142 different shades of meaning ...
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