“When are you going to learn to keep your big mouth shut?” growled old Beef Wafflegreen, elder of the Premmiproppa Good News Church, to his equally-old fellow-elder Dusty Snodgrass. They were walking down a sunny, springtime, country road with expressions fit for February.
Dusty replied, “The Bible says we are to lovingly correct.”
“Even when it makes the new preacher look like a pedophile?”
“I never said he was a pedophile. I only said little Pumpkin was uncomfortable.”
Beef shook his head. “I always said you had the brains of a turnip.”
“Oh? Well, you’ve got the heart.”
“Best part of a turnip”, countered Beef, before continuing, “And anyway, what do you expect? Preachers are suppose to ask girls to Sunday school. Who wants that job? And who wants to be asked? Heck if I ever wanted to go to Sunday school. Of course it’s awkward. It’s bound to be.”
“You were a boy”, replied Dusty. “You’d rather be fishing. It’s different with girls.” He waved an arm while walking, becoming expansive. “Think back to a school dance when we were punks. The boys were on one side of a gym. Most would rather be fishing. The girls were on the other side of the gym. Most would rather be dancing. They were miserable because none of the boys had the guts to ask. But I said “most“. There were also a few girls who felt like the boys. They would rather be fishing. And those ones don’t want to be asked. The preacher’s suppose to know the difference.”
“Eh? What the fudge are you going on about?” exploded Beef.
Dusty adopted a slightly condescending air. “They problem with you, Beef, is that you don’t understand women.”
“Likely so. You can go all girly better than me, ‘cause you have seven daughters. But get on with it. What are you driving at? Are you saying little Pumpkin is one of those girls who don’t want to be asked?”
“Exactly. Maybe you aren’t quite so dumb as you look.”
Beef furrowed his brow. “But how the heck’s the preacher to know? It’s not like girls have labels affixed to them.”
“Sheesh Beef. You’ve got to play it by ear. Most girls glow like a sunrise when asked. But Pumpkin got all squirmy, and blushed like it hurt.”
Beef sighed. “I suppose you’re right. But the preacher’s madder than a wet hen. He says you’ve started the whole town talking, and his reputation is ruined. You know how those whack-job Flatlanders, who have moved in, are. They think all churches should be outlawed, and all preachers are creeps.”
“Well, that’s their problem”, countered Dusty. “They’re afraid to talk about anything, ‘cause it might not be acceptable. You can’t even talk about the weather any more, without them shrieking and fainting.”
“Right: That Global Warming malarkey.”
“Yup. They’re always shrieking and fainting about stuff. And they call us prudes.”
“Yup. ‘Political correctness,’ they call it. A pile of manure if I ever saw it, but they are big on it. And the preacher’s afraid he’s dead meat, if-’n’-when he don’t kowtow to that nonsense.”
Dusty winced. “A preacher’s s’pose to know better than that. Christians are s’pose to face lions. He’s suppose to set the example. We’re suppose to be able to talk about what makes some girls comfortable and some girls uncomfortable without dreading that some Gestapo will come in and arrest us.”
“I see what you’re saying,” agreed Beef, but he was still shaking his head. “Yet I still wish you had kept your big mouth shut. The preacher’s a fit to be tied, I tell you.”
The two men were approaching a quaint, old church. It had seen better days, and the paint was peeling badly. As they neared a choir ceased singing, and a slightly prissy, sing-song female voice began speaking.
“Widow Hicks doin’ the Children’s Sermon,” grunted Dusty.
“Aye-yup”, agreed Beef. “And you’ve got to credit Pastor Clinkerfuss. We went three years without a kid in our church. Nice to have some kids in the church again. That’s why you should shut your mouth. Clinkerfuss does good.”
“Taint Christian to be silent,” was all Dusty would reply, as the men entered.
The sanctuary of the Premmiproppa Good News Church would be in the National Historic Register, of anyone knew it existed. The pews were beautifully carved long ago by men who loved wood, and the stain-glass windows each told an individual story, with each elaborate. Generations had carefully cleaned and dusted the room, and despite its age it did not smell musty. It held a mood, an atmosphere, all its own.
There was room in the pews for roughly two hundred people, if the people were crowded in (and if there was no such thing as fire codes), but only forty-five sat in the church on this particular Sunday morning. Thirty were ancient people, and some had sat in the same pews for half a century. But fifteen were from three young families, and the old-timers were smiling in happy disbelief as Widow Hicks finished her children’s sermon, and nine children skipped and pranced back down the aisle to their parents. Then Pastor Clinkerfuss arose and wearily walked to the pulpit to give his sermon.
Pastor Clinkerfuss looked the way an innocent man looks, when he has been accused of being a pedophile. He was gaunt, with dark circles under his eyes, and his hands were shaking slightly. His face was an ashen gray, but when his eyes arose and he spotted Dusty Snodgrass at the back of the sanctuary he abruptly flushed bright pink. He fought himself, quivering, and then his better judgment lost.
He spoke with scathing sarcasm, “Well, well, well. Will you look who has condescended to come wandering in. If it isn’t Brother Snodgrass, the oh-so-wise elder of this church. The man who thinks he is so smart that, though he has never been to divinity school, he can correct me. The man overseeing a church sinking into obscurity, who has utterly derailed my efforts to revive it. I must defer to his great and hoary wisdom, which has landed us in utter and complete embarrassment. Brother Snodgrass, seeing as you are so ancient and so wise, will you please give the message?”
With that Pastor Clinkerfuss stalked to the front pew and sat down, looking at his toes and folding his arms.
Beef Wafflegreen hastened away to the side, and Dusty, with his eyes very round, took a deep breath. Then, in a surprisingly relaxed way, he wandered down to the front of the church and mounted to the pulpit. He tapped the outdated microphone, cleared his throat, and then began,
“Well, this is danged awkward.”
There was a ripple of laughter among the old-timers of the church. This was the most fun they’d had in years.
Dusty looked thoughtfully to the side, and then raised is palms and prayed, “Lord, you say that when we land ourselves in this sort of trouble, you will supply us with the words to say. I pray you give me the words.”
There was then a long pause, and then Dusty chuckled, “I’m still waiting!”
Another wave of laughter rippled across the pews, but it abruptly ceased when Dusty exclaimed, “Oh wow!” The silence grew as he reiterated, “Oh wow, wow, wow! Oh wow!” Then he hitched up his belt.
“I think the message is this:” he then began, with his voice full of excitement. “Truth is bound to get you in trouble. No one wants to hear it. It reminds me of a funny poem:
Give them sugar. Give them spice.
Cook them brownies that taste nice
But never, never give advice.
Yes, you laugh at that, until you think about Jesus. He gave good advice, didn’t He? But did anyone want to hear it? No. Instead they killed Him, or thought they killed Him, and why? For telling the Truth.
Back then they got to see you can’t kill Truth, ‘cause they got to see Him walking around after he was dead, but that happened a long, long time ago, and also Jesus said he’d be back again any day, and that kept folk excited. But folk now have been waiting for His second coming two thousand years, and it hasn’t happened. So maybe some are starting to think God forgot, and maybe Truth now can be killed. It sure seems that way, when our preacher lands in such a pack of trouble for trying to be kind, but instead making Pumpkin squirm and blush. Maybe being kind can even be outlawed, ‘cause it isn’t up to the standards of Flatlanders.”
Dusty rubbed under his lower lip thoughtfully a moment, before continuing, “What the Flatlanders want is no grief. I don’t blame them, but then I think about what grief has brought me. What has it brought me?”
A strange look of elation filled the old man’s face. “You know something? All the crap I take for telling the Truth is worth it, ’cause the grief makes me wiser. They say ‘You cannot sing the blues until you pay the dues,’ but it is even better than that.”
Dusty laughed a mad laugh, and continued “One funny thing about Jesus is that he said we have to lift up and carry our cross long before he actually carried his own cross. First He talked the talk, and then He walked the walk. But still the Flatlanders wonder, ‘Is it really worth it?’ Is the grief you get for Truth really worth it?”
The old man again chuckled, and then said, “They’ll never know, unless they try it. I can say it is uplifting all I want, but why should they believe me?”
There was a gasp from the congregation, and Widow Hicks fainted. Dusty Snodgrass was slowly rising into the air. He laughed in delight, “Well, this is danged awkward.”
The pity is that the congregation was so astounded that not a single person took a picture with their cell phone, which is why the miracle never appeared on Facebook.