The luxury sedan slid to a stop in front of the church. The smartly dressed chauffeur eased out of it and rushed to open the door. Suave and smooth, a ‘million dollar look’ about his clothes, Richard came out. He was looking around for a brief minute, expecting someone. He was not disappointed.
The church steward Burton was bustling about. He sensed the presence of Richard and homed on to him even as he was climbing the steps. Burton hovered deferentially around Richard and fawned all over him. He personally ushered Richard to the best and most comfortable pew in that old church building.
Minutes passed and Burton went back to the usher’s seat. He glanced at a fellow who happened to be walking in. He was a mousy little fellow. He was wearing worn out shoes and a coat, which had many patches. Seedy and disheveled, he was sauntering into the sanctuary. Burton grimaced. The fellow looked really out of place amongst all the well-heeled gentry who swelled the church. He observed the Church sexton Andrew and called him. “Andrew”, he instructed, “Take that blighter out to the South side. Others will notice him otherwise and comment.” Andrew smiled to himself and nodded. “ I know that it is you yourself who can’t accept Old Nick” he mused as he took the fellow to the side.
After the opening prayers and hymns, the time ministry of the Word began. Burton walked up to the lectern to read the epistle lesson. It was from the 2nd chapter of the book of James.
“My brethren,” Burton began to intone, “ Do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel and then should also come in a poor men in filthy rags, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man,’ You stand there’ or ‘Sit here at my footstool” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts…”(NKJV)
Though automatically he continued and ended the lesson, Burton was not paying any attention. Even as he sat back in his place, he thought he could hear the voice of God speaking to him. “I myself showed partiality a few minutes ago”, he thought, “ I was extra kind to rich Richard and neglected the other poor fellow. I shouldn’t have done that. Could I make amends?”
After the service ended, Burton quickly crossed over to the South side. He spied Andrew and Nick come out of the church unattended. He reached out and warmly shook Nick’s hand. He embraced him. “You are welcome to our church. Do come again.” He said. Then he shook Andrew’s hand too before he moved on.
Nick scratched his head. “Hey mate, isn’t he the same bloke who didn’t even bother about me as I entered the church? What has happened to him?” he asked. Andrew was shaking his head. “I am not sure Nick. May be the lesson he read went into his head for once! Any way lets go and have some coffee Nick” he invited.
As they sipped their coffee and munched biscuits, Nick wondered, “ I still can’t believe how that bloke changed so much, so quickly!” Andrew laughed, “ I wouldn’t put my money on him anyway Nick. I think it was just a passing phase – a brief interlude as they say.” He replied as he passed a biscuit to his friend. “But one thing I know mate. Our God is no respecter of persons, as the Good Word says. I’m sure that there’ll be many surprises in Heaven when we reach there. Especially for blokes like Burton”
They were walking out through the patio to go out. Out there on the sofa, Richard was sitting comfortably, sipping coffee and smiling. Burton was simpering. “It was so kind of you Sir to come to attend our church. It is our privilege. Please feel free to contribute to our Church repair fund Sir…”
Overhearing the whining tone of Burton as they reached the door, Nick and Andrew silently smiled at each other.
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