Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ANNOYED (04/05/18)
- TITLE: A Hard Time in Heaven???
By Noel Mitaxa
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Anyone complaining about overcast skies was met with a gentle rebuke, “Cheer up; it’s always sunny – if you’re tall enough!”
Any prospective ministry team member who tried to oversell others’ skills compared to theirs; or protested about never having done it before; was met with a smile…
“All of those ‘expert’ folks started with as much inexperience as you, and they’ve built from it. And if you’ve ever done it before, you’ve got no experience in failing. Besides, the church isn’t a skills contest. It’s a constant opportunity for us all to express the gifts God gives us, so we might see his grace overriding any mistakes we make.”
He easily deflected flattery about his preaching with a reminder of God once using a donkey to straighten out the prophet Balaam; or a wry confession that “steering wheels and pillows often hear better sermons than many congregations – when it’s all too late!”
Did anything ever get under his skin?
Well, yes. Ironically, it was intolerance…
A beautiful crisp autumn morning was promising gentle warmth, with a sky clear enough for even short people to see the sun, which was streaming in through the kitchen windows. A good day to be alive.
A raucous, repetitive telephonend suddenly and self-assertively shredded his idyll.
From his breakfast-bar stool, Paul reached across to the intruder. Holding it to his ear, he heard Jeff’s welcome voice. Jeff had taken some coaxing to recognize his pastoral gifts, gifts which the church had willingly endorsed, but he was proving to be a very capable elder. “Sorry to call so early Pastor, but I’m concerned about old brother Joe. We haven’t seen him for a few weeks now. Can you think of anything that might have upset him?”
Paul appreciated the gentle spirit behind the call, as he tried to clear his mind above instantaneous images of a silent parade of all old Joe’s upsets.
“Can’t think of anything in particular Jeff,” he replied, in spite of his trip down memory lane. “But thanks for asking. I’ll check him out.”
Replacing the phone, he punched in Joe’s number. The ring tone’s delay revived his silent parade; highlighted by the day of his induction, when old Joe had happily stuck out his hand to introduce himself as “God’s stone in the pastor’s shoe!” An ironic self-assessment, for old Joe kept finding life a constant stone in his own shoe, while he followed a self-appointed call that was all about making life difficult for everyone else.
Finally, Joe’s gruff tone: “Huh – hullo?”
“Good morning Joe, it’s Pastor Paul here. We’ve missed you. Would you like to catch up for a coffee around three this afternoon, down at Pepe’s?”
“Don’t know if it will do any good, pastor, but if you’re paying, I guess I could.”
Paul thanked him against all his emotional defences. With Joe’s forensic skill at finding fault - especially with pastors – what wouldn’t upset him? Was it only the thrill of dying that was keeping him alive???
But optimism reminded him that no overnight brooding would taint the schedule.
Just before three, Paul found a booth at Pepe’s Coffee House and ordered two coffees. He prayerfully waited, but not for long, because old Joe was right on time, his arrival almost compelling the background music to shift to a minor key.
“Pastor, the worship is too noisy!” he growled. “You have to get rid of those awful musicians with their guitars and drums. I won’t be back until we have real hymns and the organ again!”
Resisting an instantaneous urge to welcome him to any other church in town, Paul bit the bullet with what he hoped was a positive pastoral challenge.
“Joe, organs were once described as instruments of the devil, and Psalm 150 lists a whole range of instruments for praising God, for Who we worship is more important than how we worship.
“And have you considered how God might allow you to get away with your withdrawal for now? But think about your forever? Do you think you’ll be able to avoid those musicians in Heaven? Are you expecting God to keep organizing hit-squads of angels to keep them away from you - forever?
“How about this week you consider what God likes about those people who get up your nose? Then next week we could grab another coffee.”
Would Paul’s challenge be accepted? Only God would know…
Author’s Note: Disgruntled church members are a sad fact of life, but every one of us is still a “God’s work in progress.” And who knows, we may be unaware of our contribution to their angst.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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