I had visited the pastor at Ephesus in Georgia. He warned me of the wafer-eating group. They had even interrupted some of his sermons. He wouldn’t be surprised if they would do the same thing to me.
My text was from the last book in the Bible. There were strange parallels to all the churches on my speaking circuits. In fact, there were strange parallels between Revelation and the times we were living in.
“Open to Revelation 2,” I said.
I tried to open with a joke. “I was taught to do that in cemetery, I mean seminary,” I told them. Crickets. Silence. No one cracked a smile.
I started with the story of a farmer I knew with a prize pig that was missing a leg. I asked the farmer how that happened. He didn’t answer me but instead asked me a question. “A prize pig like that? Let me tell you about that pig. One night my house was burning down and the pig came rushing out from nowhere and started banging his snout against my bedroom window to wake me up. I got up in a fit and escaped just in time.”
I said,” that’s an interesting story but that doesn’t explain how that pig lost its leg.”
“A prize pig like that, are you kidding? I’ll tell you, one time I was having a problem with my truck with a tire as flat as a tortilla. And I couldn’t get it to start and I had no way to get it to the tire barn. I saw that pig rushing toward me and sat in front of the truck and waiting till I attached a rope. Dang, if he didn’t pull it to the barn.”
I again said, that’s interesting but that still doesn’t explain how he lost his leg.
“Seriously?” He said, “a pig like that, a prize pig . . . a wonderful pig like that?” He said, “you can’t eat a pig like that all at once.”
After I finished, I thought I felt a stinging in my left cheek. Thought I was imagining something.
I proceeded to a story I had heard about the great 9-11 tragedy back in ’01. I thought I could excite the congregation with some prophecy. The pastor had told me they didn’t like any Old Testament. Apparently, they didn’t like most of the New Testament either I found out.
“I don’t know if any of you have heard of a French astrologer and physician who was accurate in some of his prophecies from the sixteenth century. His name was Nostradamus. He just had one name, I told them, kind of like Madonna, Fabian, or Charo.” Dead silence again.
“He foretold the 9-11 massacre with details that seem to be accurate. Supposedly, he said, ‘Two steel birds will fall from the sky on the Metropolis / The sky will burn at forty-five degrees latitude / Fire approaches the great new city / Immediately a huge, scattered flame leaps up / Within months, rivers will flow with blood The undead will roam the earth for little time.’”
I felt my left jowl smart again. What was causing that?
I proceeded to another of his quatrains, “‘In the city of God there will be a great thunder / Two brothers torn apart by Chaos while the fortress endures / The great leader will succumb / The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.’ That was Nostradamus in1654!”
Ouch! Another biting pain just outside my right eye. It was a spitball! That one narrowly missed me. I just ignored the attacks and continued.
“Many of you might have read these prophecies. And you may have even believed them!”
Snap! Another biting sting on my face. That’s getting irritating. Must be leaving red marks. I was trying to lead them to the Scriptures.
I couldn’t believe I was going to exegete one of Nostradamus’ bogus quatrain but I was.
“Two steel birds” sound like a couple of airplanes, doesn’t it? “Metropolis” sounds like New York City. New York actually sits at 40 degrees north latitude so 45 degrees is pretty close. “Two brothers,” of course, sound like the Twin Towers. “The third big war,” sounds like World War III. But then it was signed, “Nostradamus, 1654,” which was 88 years after Nostradamus’ death. Steel wasn’t invented until 200 years after Nostradamus died. I knew all this but was trying to get their attention.
Whack! Now it’s getting ridiculous. A ball about the size of a popcorn ball. Before I could protest, a middle-aged man called out to me about two-thirds back of the sanctuary.
“That’s a hoax! It’s been explained away on the internet years ago!” the man cried out.
I feigned shock. “Really? Oh, well, so much for that” I said. I crumpled the paper I was reading and tossed it in the third row.
I thought that would get them on my side. I finally got a few giggles.
“My point was that many of us would sooner trust a prediction by a suspect astrologer from the 15-hundreds rather than trust the Spirit-inspired Holy Bible!”
Now, I got their attention.
“Now, let’s look at the book of Revelation. Notice,” I said, “Rev-vel-a-shun, not Revelations. The last book of the Bible is the ‘revealing’ of the person of Jesus Christ for all time. It’s not a series of interesting visions. Of course, it is that, but it is foremost the picture of Jesus Christ as we will know Him throughout eternity. So that’s why it’s called Rev-vel-a-shun not Revelations.”
“Note that the letter to Ephesus was addressed to the angel of the church. Do you know who the angel of the church is? It could be an actual angel but an angel, literally, is ‘a messenger.’ The angel could be your pastor. All of these angels that are addressed at these churches in Revelation 2 and 3 could be the ministers of the churches. The angel could be your pastor! Have you ever thought of your pastor as an angel?’
Splat. Again I got hit in the face with a spitball. This one was wet. Did they hate the pastor here that much? It probably was a one of those in the wafer-eating, disgruntled group.
“Jesus is the One who holds the ‘seven stars’ in his hand. He is the One who walks amongst the lamp stands of the churches.”
I braced myself. Nothing but silence. That was an upgrade. Just “crickets.” I took a big breath.
“Jesus told this church that he knew their work for the Lord and that they couldn’t tolerate bad men. This church was actually a really good church.”
I ducked. Ha! They missed me!
“Your church, here in Ephesus, is a lot like the one in the original Ephesus.” Argh. Got me in the forehead. Maybe I’m wrong. This church may be worse than the one Ephesus!
“There was a fatal flaw in this church in Ephesus. They had lost their first love for the Lord. I had never lost my first love for the Lord. I had been a pastor for churches but I never had trusted the Lord. So I never had a “first love” to lose. Now I love the Lord but I haven’t lost it.
A pile of Bibles in the back of the sanctuary fell over. Was that done on purpose? Now a baby is crying. Can my eyes be betraying me? Someone is actually tossing the baby up and down in the center of the church. I couldn’t believe it. Someone is actually throwing a baby up and down in the middle of the service. I’m repeating myself because someone is throwing a baby up and down during the sermon. And it’s the most important point of the sermon, too. They’re throwing a baby up and down! And everyone is looking at the baby! I’m losing the congregation! I’m also looking at the baby going up and down in the air. It’s a bit distracting. Amusing, too.
You talk about losing your love for the Lord. But how could anyone be blamed? The whole crowd is about a grandparent’s age plus ten. I’m going to ignore it.
“Soooo . . .,” trying to get their attention, the main problem with this really good church, was that they had lost their first passion for the Lord.”
I tried to ignore the baby-tossing but the congregation was missing the whole point of my sermon because they were distracted by a baby being bounced up and down. That’s an idea. Maybe I should bring a baby into the church with me and bounce it up and down and then I’d get everyone’s attention.
Hmm. What should I do? I know we were in the Tribulation period, the end of the end of the world, but I still think they needed to hear what the Lord had for them. I had to take drastic action.
“Hey, could you please stop bouncing the baby up and down.” Moans. Man shouting. “Why don’t you just shut up and talk!”
I was a visitor. I guess I made my point. I guess.
“The Lord wants you to be passionate, heartfelt, fervent. It’s not enough to do good works and have good doctrine. He wants all of us to be on fire.” I now can see a teenager lighting matches in the back. I guess this place is all that the pastor had warned me about.
I knew I could get through this. After all, when I was first a neophyte preacher, I spoke in the clubhouse of an apartment. They had drawn the drapes and revealed a bevy of bikini-clad young girls. I made it through that. I could handle this.
“’Repent, the Lord says!’ To repent, literally means to change your mind. Do the things that God wants you to do! In fact, here in Revelation 2, it says that the Ephesian church hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans! The Lord hated what they were doing!”
I said Nicolaitans but they must have heard Neco-waferians. All of a sudden, I felt like my head was struck by lightning. I passed out.
(To be continued . . . .)”