was one of those meetings the parson didn't really want to attend. He
knew he, along with a couple of others, would be the wayward cousins in
the group. It was a meeting of the regional ministerial association. The
parson was considered to be somewhat beyond the religious left horizon
by many of the participants.
Truth be told, the parson didn't duck the designation.
over, it happened. The parson got stuck in a group that began a
discussion the parson would have rather not been part of. He kept quiet
and listened, determined not to make a comment.
tell you, Fred,” said Herman Sylvester, pastor of the Spirit-Filled
Church of the Triumphant Procession of the Doubly Redeemed, “I'm really
proud of that publishing company for standing up for principle. It's
“What are you talking about?” asked Fred Abbott, pastor of the Pentecostal Brethren of the Gifts of the Spirit.
Herman quickly began to educate. “I'm talking about Rachel Held Evans' last book.”
“What's the name of the book?” asked Fred.
“I don't know the name of the book,” said Herman. “That's not important.”
“Well, glory be,” said Sam Peterson, “the parson reads evangelical books.”
“I do from time to time,” the parson replied.
“So, what's the issue with the book?” asked Fred.
continued his education. “The issue with the book, Fred, is the way she
was going to include the term ...” Herman looked about the room as if
to determine if it were safe to continue. “... Well, she used a term to
describe a woman's female parts.”
parson smiled. He waited. The silence was deafening. Finally Paul
Prentiss, pastor of the Redeemed Church of the Holy Sanctified Baptized
in the Holy Spirit, asked, “What term was it?”
Again Herman looked around. He lowered his voice. “The term was 'vagina'.”
“What?” asked Fred.
I said the word was 'vagina'. She wanted the church publishing company
to print a book with the word 'vagina' in it. Thank goodness the
publishers informed her that no matter how popular her books were they
were not going to publish a blatant reference to sex as is that.”
Heads nodded. Murmurs of agreement bounced around the group.
there was silence for a moment. Afterward the parson rose to leave.
Herman challenged him. “So, Parson, would you agree it was a bold thing
for that publishing house to refuse to publish a book with that kind of
reference in it?”
“Oh, I'm not qualified to comment on that, Herman,” said the parson. “I'm just worried about you folks.”
“What do you mean?” asked Sam.
the parson remarked, “if your publishing company won't print books with
references to sexual parts and/or acts in it, where are you folks going
to buy your Bibles?”
Krista Tippett, in this unedited video, moderates a conversation between Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, and Gabe Lyons, founder of Q: Ideas for Common Good. - This is a compelling discussion with implications for all of us.
It was June 23rd, 1965. It was the day before I was to leave to become pastor at my first parish. (You can do the math if you want to determine how long I've been trying to get this right.) The Reverend Clyde Calloway, pastor of my home church, had asked me to stop by his office that afternoon. I did.
Strange that I would think of Clyde now. Thinking of him was kindled by a memory of another pastor. That pastor was no where as accomplished or charming as Clyde. I'm sure someday he will be. But when I encountered him two years ago, he was four months into serving his first church. Let me describe him to you. He was naïve.
On that day I stopped by Clyde's office I was naïve also; I was really in the dark about what constituted being a pastor. But I didn't know it though. Back then, on that day before I left for my first church, I assumed I'd arrive there and do what pastor's do. I'd preach; I'd baptize babies; I'd marry endearing young couples who stared at each other in unbridled affection. I'd visit the sick; I'd visit the shut-in; I'd drop by the nursing home and pray with people by their hospital bedside.
That's what pastors do, right? Well, it is what pastors do. But it's not all that pastors do. Most pastors have to deal with things you'd never expect. And that brings me to why I mentioned that on June 23rd, 1965, I found myself in the office of Clyde Calloway.
Now understand that, even though I'd never served a church, even though I was unfamiliar with the inter workings of the denomination, I knew that Clyde Calloway was one powerful preacher. When Clyde spoke people listened. I was a reasonably intelligent young man. I was ready to hear any advice Clyde gave, to walk in any direction he pointed. I was willing to do that because, despite the fact I'd given my life to service, I was not without ambition.
Clyde educated me that day. He brought me into reality. He told me he wanted to give me two presents. So we went into his office. He sat behind his desk and pointed me to the chair opposite. I sat. He reached into a drawer and withdrew a package that was gift wrapped with fancy paper and ribbon. At his direction I opened the package. From it I withdrew a leather bound Bible. On the bottom right of the cover, engraved in gold lettering, was my name. It was the first time I'd seen “Reverend” proceeding my identity.
I thanked him profusely. And we talked a bit more. Eventually, Clyde worked the conversation around to reminding me he had another present. When I acknowledged I remembered he said there were two gifts, he reached under his desk and brought out another gift wrapped package. It was a little over a couple of feet long and a five inch wide rectangular shape. I was curious. I opened the package.
Imagine my surprise at withdrawing a plumber's helper with my name burned into the handle, once again with the adjective “Reverend”. I looked at Clyde in confusion. He smiled, and said to me: “You're a smart young man with a good United Methodist education. You're going to discover that you might be able to get by without that Bible.”
“I tell you this with all confidence,” said Homer Cowlings, a pastor at a local fundamental church, “the prophecies of the Book of Revelation are unfolding now, even as we speak. We are nearing that seven year period of The Great Tribulation that will last three-and-a-half years. . . .”
The parson rose, trying to do so quietly, having made a decision there was no point in hanging around for this discussion. He stepped toward the door, but his exit was not unnoticed.
“Hey, Parson,” called out Homer, “are you not interested in the prophecies of Revelation?”
The parson paused, with his hand on the door, and looked back at Homer and his friends. Then he said, “Actually, Homer, I'm going to be completely truthful with you. No, I'm not interested. I don't understand the Book of Revelation. I have to leave the interpretation of these end day so-called prophecies to people more conversant such as yourself.”
“Well, you should be interested in it, Parson. It spells out the end of time clearly.”
“Homer,” said the parson, “you'll have to forgive me again. I'm also not the least bit interested in the end times.”
Home started to say something. The parson held his hand up and said, “I'll tell you what I am interested in, Homer. I'm interested in the here and now. I'm interested in living in the present as a Christian. To do that, Homer, I've discovered my difficulties have nothing to do with the things in the Bible I don't understand. You see, Homer, Revelation is something I don't understand. So it gives me no difficulty. But, Homer, there are a few things in the Bible I do understand. Things like, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' I understand that, Homer. I understand it completely without any question. And, you see, Homer because I understand it, it's what gives me the most trouble. That trouble comes from the fact that often I just don't want to do it.”
The parson opened the door. As he was stepping out he looked back. “I tell you what, Homer, as soon as I'm able to live out these things I do understand I'll come and let you teach me the secrets of Revelation.”
It was one of those times. The parson had picked the wrong place to sit. The round table was in a corner. The parson somehow had been maneuvered into taking the seat that put his back in the corner. As the table filled with others the chairs to the parson's left and his right prohibited an easy escape.
Escape the parson desired. The table was in the cafeteria of a large urban hospital. The parson had been a participant in a seminar on pastoral care. After the seminar session the parson and two others had taken advantage of the time to share a light meal and some conversation. In a short time three others, who had been participants in the seminar invited themselves to the table.
The parson admired the dedication of the three who'd joined. They worked tirelessly in with their congregations. Each was hard working and served as pastors of growing congregations. The parson did feel himself a bit alienated from their theology.
Five minutes after they settled themselves in their seats the parson's unease rose. “We're all excited about the signs we see all about us,” said Rex Dillard, the obvious leader to the trio. “Everything points to the imminent return of our Lord.”
“Oh, good gracious,” interjected Marvin Peppers, who'd been sitting with the parson when the three arrived. “Don't start with that end time stuff, Rex.”
“Well, the end time is up to Jesus,” said Rex, “but a careful reading of the scripture gives us good evidence that Jesus will be returning in the near future and following that return will be the end.”
“Where in the world do you find this ….”
Marvin was interrupted by Sid Whitney, the other pastor who'd been sitting with the parson. “Don't ask him where he finds it; he's got a Bible with him.”
“Well, it might be of benefit to you if you'd study the Word,” responded Henry Harrision who was with Rex. “If you study it as have Rex and Sam (he pointed to the third of the trio who'd joined the parson's party) and I you wouldn't be so dismissive of the immediate return of Jesus.”
This provoked a response from Marvin who was ready to do battle with Rex. Sid leaned forward in anticipation of needing to assist Marvin. The parson leaned back in his chair until his back was wedged against the two walls that formed the corner that trapped him.
The argument went on for twenty minutes. Occasionally, Marvin had invited the others to tone down the volume as people were looking. The parson continued to lean back, sip his decaf, and watch in fascination. Sid had now become red in the face and Rex was holding his Bible lovingly against his chest.
Rex, sitting directly in front of the parson, finally said, “You haven't joined in on the debate, Parson.”
The parson leaned forward in the chair bringing its front legs back to the floor. He then leaned a bit across the table and looked at Rex. “Tell me, Rex, honestly, do you really believe that Jesus will return before the summer's up?”
“I believe that with all my heart,” said Rex.
“In that case,” said the parson, “can I have your BMW?”
The parson had never seen him before. He seemed to bear a resemblance to someone the parson knew, but who just wouldn't come to mind. The man had come into the church maybe five minutes before the service began, just as the parson had stepped from the media room where he'd just given his weekly admonition to the youth running the multi-media to pay attention.
“Good morning,” said the parson. “Welcome to our church.” The parson gave the man his name and attempted to make him feel at home. He directed him to a couple in the congregation of the same age as the visitor.
The service went well. The visitor seemed to be singing the hymns and praise song with relish. He was obviously following the scripture on the screen. He nodded his approval of the parson's point in the sermon for the younger ones.
The parson's sermon went well, he thought. He deviated from the text briefly at the end. There were even one or two “Amens.” It wasn't a sermon that would be held up as a positive example in a homiletics class in seminary. But it was adequate.
As the parson greeted folks after the service the visitor exited. The parson extended his hand. “Great to have us with you. I hope you filled out a Visitor's Card.”
“I did,” said the man. “But don't bother following up on it. I won't be back. The message was not grounded in the Word.” The man pointed to the Bible the parson hadn't noticed before, a well-worn King James Version. “I'm serious. I won't be back.”
The parson looked the man in the eye and responded, “Okay.” As the man descended the steps, the parson didn't speak out loud but he thought, “Praise the Lord.”
The parson stood in line at the pharmacy, waiting to get a prescription for a member. He was fourth in line. The woman at the counter was asking for some sort of consultation about her medicine. The explanation took over five minutes but maybe a couple short of ten. The parson shifted his weight, the pain in his hip, the result of an old soccer injury according to the doctor, was above average today. The woman, finally satisfied with the explanations, paid and walked away.
The parson was not only three from the counter. It was a shorter distance to the counter and not as long a wait, but the distance was enough to put him in the middle of the aisle and the wait long enough to allow time for him to be confronted by Jim Rightside.
“Hey, Parson,” he said. “Up here getting some old age pills?”
“Something like that, Jim,” said the parson as he shifted his weight to the opposite to relocate the uncomfortable feeling in his hip.
Jim began talking to the parson about a number of things. This conversation took enough time the parson moved to second in the line. And then Jim got around to his usual subject.
“I've got to tell you, Parson, this coming election is going to be an important. The President has just passed to much legislation that's sole purpose is to lead this country down the slippery path of socialism. What do you think?”
“Well, I'm trying to remember my college political science classes, Jim. I don't remember anywhere in the Constitution where the President is given the power to pass legislation.”
Jim's brow wrinkled. He stared at the ceiling a minute. “Okay, okay, but that's a technicality. He's wants to socialize everything.”
During this the parson was able to move to the counter. He gave his member's name to the assistant and she retrieved it for him. “Hey, Parson,” she said, “did you know we've got a prescription ready for you?”
“No, I didn't,” said the parson. “What is it?”
“It's medicine for pain.”
“Oh, you bet, I want that,” said the parson.
He signed for the prescriptions, paid two separate bills, and turned to leave.
“Anyway, Parson,” said Jim, who had been waiting. “We need to stop this country from taking from one and giving to another. It's just not right. Don't you agree?”
The parson smiled, he reached out and put his hand on Jim's shoulder. He pulled him closer and whispered in his ear, “Repeat after me: Luke 6: 30.”
Jim whispered, “Luke 6: 30.”
The parson patted his shoulder. “See you later, Jim. See you later.”
Preparations for the evening VBS were completed. The parson
and Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion, walked across the parking lot
toward the car, headed home for some lunch and internet time.
To whom the blue Chevy belonged the parson was unsure. He
was certain it did not belong to any of the folks who’d been working in VBS
preparation. Perhaps it was someone who’d parked at the church to Ride Share.
Something, however, called to the parson’s attention. He walked to the back of
the car, noted the local county sticker on the tag, and pondered the appeal.
Then he saw it.
It sat on the ledge between the back seat and the rear
window. Dust covered both it and the ledge, making its age indeterminate. It
was leather bound. The top cover had curled upward as the paper pages followed,
undoubtedly from the incessant beating of the sun upon the car. The parson
wondered how long it would take the rays to bend the cover in that way and to
bleach half of it as well as a third of each curled page to an orange-yellow
The parson leaned closer to examine it more clearly. It was
The New International Version. And it was bearing witness.
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