Saturday, April 16, 2011
Down Goes the Gauntlet
Old George wiped away the tears. It was Tuesday and he had just had a visit from the young pastor. Keith had told him of the surprising challenge which he had been burdened to issue. He was smiling in giving the news and animated. But the old church elder of former days, suffering almost total blindness and general atrophy of the limbs could not take it all in. Keith had left a CD copy of the message, knowing in his heart that George would rejoice at the development. And that he would pray.
George remembered eight years ago that whole process of selecting a new pastor. He had been drawn to Keith from the start in a field of six possibles. Other men stood taller; had a more compelling timbre in their voice; had papers from more prestigious Bible colleges. George had felt like the old prophet Samuel, passing by more imposing candidates for the runt of the litter, David. But David had had the key to God's heart. So did Keith.
During these last two years George had not been able to leave the Rest Home to attend, but he had gotten reports from various sources and he had taken on the burden in heavy prayer for Keith's constancy. George was aware of some of the more imposing personalities and their regrettable sense of territory in church program. He had feared that Keith was buckling. That a low common denominator was taking over.
In his forty-five years at the fellowship George could remember a wide variety of characters in the pulpit. Some with a sincere malleable shepherd's heart. Some commandants. Some ear ticklers. Some career boys. But then there was Keith.
He could still remember Keith's candidacy sermon taken from that haunting prayer at the end of the prophecy of Habakkuk. He had entitled it "Yes, this is true religion." The one where the prophet had said 'although the trees and crops fail and the livestock go missing, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.' This was a matter of loving God for God's sake, and not for His trinkets. George had loved the young preacher for the purity of his spirit and the loyalty of his message. The selection vote had been close, but it is possible that George's input had won the day.
The two had enjoyed a special bond over the years. Each on an occasion had had to correct the other on an issue of serious importance to the church. But brotherhood and mutual respect had never wavered.
And now this young man was telling the assembly to 'move on, grow up, wean themselves, take risks for the thrill of new revelation and new opportunity, open up one to the other, and then come together in agreement to take blessing and truth outside the church walls'. George was hugging himself in the wheelchair at the prospect of all of this. His prayers were being answered. For the moment there was nothing as adequate in the way of praise and thanksgiving as "the tongues":
"Parabba do manni forrah sic bianti pas kemmi soodah." And then laughter. Rich, full and in the tone of a much younger man (1 Peter 1:8).
The one nurse at the station down the hall turned to her colleague and remarked, "Oh there goes old George again in that odd language of his. Wonder what it could all mean? Too bad when they get like this."
Note: The story is told of Father Nash who would travel to each crusade town and travail for days for the anointing and fruitfulness of Charles Finney's preaching. The astounding results are history.