There were twenty minutes left to prepare an Easter message that could rock a mostly visiting congregation. Pastor Ron was accustomed to pressure; he’d done this a thousand times. Try as he might, however, he could come up with nothing that he felt would move hearts.
The sanctuary had been closed up since Thursday when Maria, the cleaning lady, came in to do the quarterly polishing. Ron flipped on the lights and reflections from the wood shown like a kaleidoscope. The strong scent of lemon clung to the roof of his mouth, so he opened the oversized, freshly polished French doors to let in fresh air.
Though spring was already stifling in Coolidge, Arizona, a bone-chilling wind rushed through the doors.
“It’s been a long time, friend.”
Ron turned quickly on his heel in search of the source of the voice and found nobody. But he remembered the first time he’d heard that voice and the first time that chill had caught him off guard. It happened only seconds after he’d given his heart to Christ. “I don’t have time for you! I didn’t invite you here! And I’m not your friend!”
“You don’t have time for me? Is that because you will look like a fool if you don’t have some fancy show for people? Remember that Job didn’t invite me either. I don’t need your permission.” The hint of sarcastic laughter sent a fresh wave of ice through Ron’s bones. “And if you come up with nothing? Will you serve the Christ if you are made a fool of?”
Ron did his best to ignore the questioning. He knelt at the altar and prayed: “Heavenly Father, I will serve You to my end. If it is Your will to change hearts, today, through me, then so be it. If it is Your will to humble me in front of an expecting congregation, then so be it. My desire is to do Your will.”
“Nice church. Very nice, indeed. Look at all this wood! And those bright lights and flower arrangements -- aren’t those rather expensive? Would that money not be better spent providing for the poor? You should give up this building and give the money to those starving kids.”
“God’s money provided this building and everything in it. He isn’t poor. And we give large percentages of the monies that come in to the poor. I will not give up this church. God is able to tear it down, if it is His will to do so.” Ron wondered why he was even giving the enemy the benefit of a response and closed his eyes tight, hoping to shut him out.
“When you are on the streets, hungry, cold and alone, will you serve Him? When He takes away your voice and your joy, will you serve Him? When you have nothing left but the tattered shirt on your back, then will you serve Him?”
Ron lay facedown in front of the altar and spread his arms out at his sides. “This life is Yours, oh God. This church is Yours. These people are Yours, my gracious Father. And come what may, this remains; the enemy has already been defeated. And my desire is to do Your will.”
Another voice, a strong, familiar voice broke through the chill: “Yes. He was defeated. Rise up, My son, and tell both the enemy and My children that I am risen. Tell them that I Am and that My desire to do good to My people did not die with My mortal body.”
As quickly as the chilling air entered the sanctuary, it was gone again. But somehow, Ron’s shirt was wet with perspiration. When he raised his head, people were filling the pews. He had five minutes. Recalling that Elijah called in a musician so that he might be given a Word, Ron whispered to the young man waiting at the piano: “Please, play a soft tune while the sanctuary fills. When it’s full, just begin the worship service. There will be no introductions made today.” And then he took a seat at the end of a front pew to pray.
When the worship service ended, Pastor Ron took his place at the podium and began: “He is the same, today, yesterday, and forever. His willingness to bless has not changed. Though we suffer for a night, joy truly comes in the morning. He is risen! Blessed be the Name of the Lord!”
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