So there’s an old story about a preacher who was filling in a few Sundays for a friend at a small, dying church. The friend said, “It’s an easy gig. Just read the text, tell ‘em a story. Say a prayer and someone will probably take you to lunch afterward.”
The preacher arrived the first Sunday to find only 15 or so people present that morning. The old sanctuary windows were open to let in the morning breeze. Undaunted, he stepped into the pulpit as he sensed a bit of discomfort from the congregants at the absence of their familiar pastor and now this new guy who’d be with them for the next three Sundays.
The guest preacher spoke, “My friends, true believers, do you know what it is I have to say to you this morning?”
He looked out on the small gathering who simply looked back as if waiting for the follow-up to a rhetorical question. So he asked again, “My friends, my true believers in Christ, do you know what it is I have to say to you this morning?”
Finally, several of the gathered looked a little dismayed at one another until a couple of them answered at the same time, “No. How could we know that? We have no idea what you are going to say to us!”
Then the guest preacher responded, “Fine. Then there’s no reason for me to be here.” And he stepped down and left the building!
Well, the next Sunday, everyone knew he was scheduled to return. So when the guest preacher entered the little sanctuary he was a bit surprised to see it was now maybe two-thirds full with the original gathering, a number of their friends, members who hadn’t attended in years, and lots of other visitors who’d heard about the previous frustrating Sunday experience. There was a buzz in the room.
The preacher stepped up to the pulpit as the room began to quiet down. “My friends, my true believers, do you know what it is I have to say to you this morning?”
And this time, as if of one mind, the whole crowd answered resoundingly, “Yes, we know exactly what you have to say to us.”
To which the preacher responded, “Fine, then there is no reason for me to be here this morning.” And once again, he left the building.
Well on his final, third Sunday, word must have gotten around the county because when he arrived the little church was packed. The parking lot was over-parked and the sanctuary was filled to the aisles. People were even standing outside and peering in from the outside through the open windows.
This time there was a complete hush in the room as the preacher ascended the pulpit and everyone waiting as he spoke, “My friends, my true believers, do you know what it is I have to say to you this morning?”
And as if the whole crowd had conversed and rehearsed their answer beforehand, perhaps to simply stump this frustrating preacher, the left half of the room shouted, “No, we have no idea what you are going to say!” And the right half followed, shouting, “Yes, we know exactly what you are going to say!”
To which the preacher responded, “Fine. Then if this side of the room will kindly tell this other side of the room, then you see, there is really no reason for me to need to tell you anything.” And he left the building.
Well, OK. I still think you need to show up this Sunday — if only to realize that while you may already think you know what it is I’m going to say to you (as Marcus Borg’s book title so eloquently put it), you might just get to meet Christianity again, for the first time.
This Sunday, I continue the series “I’m Not That . . .” as we look at the notion of being “not THAT kind of Christian.” We’ll look at the Gospel of Mark and the story of Jesus’ family trying to rescue him from the crowd and saying essentially, “We need to get him out of there quick. He’s gone crazy!”
We’re featuring the actor Jakie Cabe again, this time with some radio humor and the revolution band with music from “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, Susan Werner, and Amos Lee.
I hope to surprise you a little Sunday! See you then.
P.S. Don’t forget that today is North Texas Giving Day. Your giving to the church and to its missions today will be matched with an added percentage of all the giving, making your dollars go even further for the ministries of the church. Consider a special gift today.