Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Encouragement (among believers) (11/08/07)
TITLE: Gossip and Grace
By Debbie OConnor
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Sandy Mobley tossed her long black hair over her shoulder. She schooled her features to appear impassive, acutely aware that she had become a walking conversation stopper. The whispers haunted her, “Pregnant…wild…uncontrollable…disgraceful...”
Pastor Jake Mobley watched his daughter sadly. She appeared to be immune to the gossip swirling around her, but he knew better. He ached to take her in his arms and kiss her until she was better, but Sandy’s problems were too big to cure with kisses. “God have mercy on my little girl,” he breathed. “Help me help her.”
Beth Mobley wrapped her arms around her husband, instinctively knowing where his thoughts lay. “She’ll be okay, Jake. God isn’t finished with her, we’re praying for her...”
“You’re right,” Jake said and sighed. He had to begin the service.
Inwardly he encouraged himself. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Nothing is too hard for God.
His sermon topic was the prodigal son. He had to fight back tears as he described the Father running to meet his wayward child and welcome him home. “We are all prodigals,” he explained gently. “Each of us has failed in some way. Sometimes our sins are easy to hide, sometimes they are not, but the only hope any of us has is the Father. He’s watching constantly, waiting breathlessly for us to take that first step toward home. When we do, he runs to meet us, sweeps us up in His arms and carries us the rest of the way. Won’t you come home?” he pleaded.
Jake’s heart was in his throat. He felt God calling Sandy through him and knew God’s grief was greater than his own was. He nearly fell when he saw Sandy leave the sanctuary.
Clinging to the podium, he looked at the congregation. Love, sympathy, anger, indifference and condemnation colored the different faces. “Oh God, help me!” he cried loudly and sharply, startling them all.
Suddenly Jake stood tall and began talking earnestly to the people assembled before him. “Most of you are aware that my daughter, Sandy, is expecting a baby. Sandy is unwed. She has sinned and must live with the consequences. She needs your help to get her life right with Christ. I need your help parenting her through this time. Sandy’s innocent baby needs your help, love and acceptance. Can we count on you? Will you be God’s feet, and run to meet this prodigal child and bring her home?”
Tears ran freely down his cheeks. His knuckles were white from gripping the podium. He didn’t realize he was holding his breath until his eyes locked with Beth’s and he was able to inhale.
The church was silent for a moment. Then Jake saw the youth pastor and several of his students leave the building. Like a cascade, the rest of the church mobbed the altar, hugging him, repenting and promising support. The service became an intercessory prayer meeting for Sandy and her child.
Hours later Jake roused from prayer when the sanctuary doors reopened. Sandy entered the room, followed by her youth pastor and the kids who had left with him. She was hesitant, her face clouded by fear and shame—hair hanging in her eyes.
Jake ran to embrace her. Engulfed by her Father’s unconditional love, Sandy choked on her repentant tears and whispered, “Daddy, I’m home.”
Cheers and praises rang through the building as those who remained celebrated. Jake looked over his daughter’s head and put his arm out to his wife who wrapped her arms around them both. Then he looked at the people standing around them—people who had rallied around his family in their need. He smiled through happy tears and said, “Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it. Thank you...” his voice broke. “Thank you.”
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