The two old warhorse preachers were retired, but not from serving the Lord.
Rev. Bob was slender as a hipless pine tree, topped by a thatch of thinning brownish-red hair. Rev. Ken’s dome was burnished to a bright shine; when he wore a blue tie he bore close resemblance to an award winning county fair pumpkin.
Each found fulfillment visiting hospitalized church members. Although they had never had a conversation, they often exchanged greetings as they passed in Memorial Central’s corridors.
Ken was backing out of Room 214 waving farewell when Bob, striding briskly and looking over his shoulder at a nurse exiting 219, plowed into him.
“No harm, no foul,” Ken said, picking himself up off the floor. He swiped stubby fingers down his shirt front. “That tile is cold. And there are little black spots in the pattern you can’t see until you get your nose on it.”
Bob, red-faced, apologized. “If I can’t drive any better than I walk, I’d better call for a ride. He hitched up his pants and readjusted his suspenders. “Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Maybe this is the Lord’s way of introducing us. He has a sense of humor, you now.”
They strolled down to the cafeteria, purchased pie and coffee, and sat at a corner table. Soft sunlight filtered through the lush foliage growing in a secluded patio outside the window. They soon knew each other’s history, at least a capsule version of it.
“What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened in your ministry?” Bob asked, stirring two spoons of sugar into his cup.
Ken smiled, remembering. “The keynote preacher at our state convention was a dynamic speaker. But that morning he began his message with downcast eyes and a sorrowful, apologetic voice. ‘There’s something I must confess,’ he said. ‘Years ago I spent many nights in the arms of another man’s wife.’ In the hushed silence that followed he added, ‘She was my mother – and I was just a baby.’ It was such a riveting attention getter I decided to use it when I got home.
“I started exactly the same way and the silence was just as profound. But then I had a senior moment and blurted out -- And I forgot her name.”
Bob laughed, dribbling cherry pie down his chin. “I’ll bet that put the fire under the kettle.”
“Did it ever? I finally remembered the punch line but timing is everything. They were a kind church, though. I served there twenty years. What about you?”
Bob laid his fork down and took a sip of coffee. “I had been pastor of this church for about six months. About four hundred were in attendance and I was waxing strong. In my enthusiasm in making some point I raised my hands high above my head. And when I did,” Bob lowered his voice to a deep bass, “my slacks fell down low about my ankles.”
Ken’s burst of laughter turned heads across the cafeteria.
“But that’s not all. When I grabbed for them I lost my balance and stumbled around like a drunk chicken. I fell down the steps in front of the congregation and landed sunny side up.”
“Oh, boy,” Bob said. “I can picture that.”
“It gets worse. I had barely regained consciousness when an elderly blue-haired lady rushed up to help. Her startled outcry brought me right around. ‘Pastor, is that a porpoise tattoo on your butt?’ Before God called me into the ministry I’d been a Navy Seal and her eyesight was 20-20.”
Bob paused his fork half way to his mouth, the chocolate bite quivering before falling off.
“Later, a senior deacon visited me in the hospital. I’d broken my back and crushed an eye socket. ‘Do you think, pastor, that the Lord might be calling you to the foreign mission field? I’m not sure you can show your – uh, face, in our pulpit again.’”
“Did you?” Bob asked.
“Nope! It was a message straight from the Lord. After rehabbing, I spent the next twenty-five years in Portugal near the place they call ‘The End of the Earth’. I had a great ministry there.”
“Well, the Lord is good, isn’t He?”
“Yes he is, always. My wife, bless her saintly heart, promised she wouldn’t leave me on one condition.”
“What was that?” Bob asked.
Ken hooked his thumbs under his suspender straps and gave them a pop. “I’ve worn them ever since.”
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