Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)
TITLE: They Call Me Trash
By Jack Taylor
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It’s Sunday and I almost missed her face in the sea of lips and eyes and noses. I think it was the trickling tear that grabbed my heart and held my gaze. After Tuesday I didn’t think she’d have the fortitude to be here.
Tuesday, we’d been in court. Tuesday, hope melted. Tuesday, Jenny’s 16 year old daughter gained her freedom and left for good. Now it’s Sunday and Jenny desperately needs to hear His Words of Hope. I set my Bible down carefully on the podium crafted by the late Arthur Higgs.
It’s Sunday. Angelina and Joshua are collapsed shoulder to shoulder like two saplings beaten down by a storm. Angelina offers a faint attempt at a smile as I catch her eye. The bruises are faint but still visible. Joshua’s head is bowed in defeat. After Thursday I didn’t think they’d have the will to be here.
Thursday, Angelina and Joshua were called again to their son’s school. I sat with them through the tears. The minefield of a new country, new home, new language, and new jobs had been too much. The explosion was serious. Their son Samuel had become a wrecking ball at school and at home. Angelina tried to restrain him and endured the force of his anger. Now it was Sunday and these parents craved God’s heartbeat. I double-check the big red digital numbers ticking by at the back of the sanctuary.
My fingertips massage the intricate grains on the polished edges of this refuge as solid as Gibraltar. It’s as if my fingertips are preprogrammed by the dozens who inhabited this haven before me. My forearms rested comfortably on this solid mantle years before I knew that there were actually studies in ergonomics explaining the way people interact with furniture and objects. For me, the important thing has always been my interaction with the people. Now, I see them in a new way.
Frank hunches in by the wheelchair of Hazel. Fifty-seven years of faithfulness didn’t preserve them from a doctor’s wrong prescription. Now, May’s mind wanders and whispers like the wind. Her body wilts like an under watered willow. On Friday we sat together wondering why. No answers came. Only the unending nightmare. Yet, here they are. Thirsting for relief from parched spirits. After Friday, I didn’t think they’d have the endurance to be here.
Anton pushes through the back door and lopes down the aisle with that lopsided grin of his. He looks to see if I notice that he’s late. Yesterday, he beamed his way through our baptismal class. He was like a kid with a strawberry Sundae doused with extra whip cream. And sprinkles.
Anton arrived from Russia two years ago. In his family, he alone believes. He soaks up truth like a sponge and squeezes out joy at what he hears. He moves to the front of his seat and leans forward in anticipation. I reach for the Words of Truth he longs for.
“Today, we’ll read about the greatest picture of hope the world has ever seen. Please open your Bibles to Revelation 7.” I take in the rustle of pages and quickly check to see that the PowerPoint has flooded the screen behind me. One more glance in front.
In the back corner Rose and Paul sit wrapped in the brilliant sunshine colors of their native Congo. Rose sits comfortably with her hands settled on her womb. 25 weeks along now. She called me late Tuesday afternoon. Hysterical. In emergency. A serious diagnosis for the baby. We prayed. Others prayed. The sun came up. Another check – up. All is well. Take it easy. The Congolese sure know how to dance. That was Tuesday and Wednesday.
Today is Sunday. Rose and Paul look for His Words of Peace and Comfort in a river of emotions water-falling through their hearts. I didn’t think they would have the health to be here. I thumb open that great letter to the seven churches. Revelation. A message for all people of all times.
From the time Ezra the priest stepped onto a raised platform to read God’s Word. From the time others explained the reading, God’s people have come yearning for truth and hope and life and grace and understanding. They look for divine encounters that will give them what they need to face in the days ahead.
Today is Sunday. They call me Trash. Sometimes I wish I was the pastor and not just the custodian.
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