Spitballs in the face. Accused of embezzlement. Endured six heart bypass surgeries. Bonked on the noggin. Fell out of a speeding car. Lied about. Slandered. Fired. More than once.
Nothing compares to what happened to me when I lived in the end of the last era, right before time expired. I figured you might like to hear about it.
“My name is Verb McCracken. That’s my name, don’t wear it out. Ha, ha. It’s a dad joke. Sorry. They don’t get any better than that. I start out slow and then kind of peter out from there.” I know my jokes are appalling.
They told me in seminary that I should always start a sermon with a joke or two. Of course, facing the end of the world, people lose their sense of humor. But then there are some Christians who never had a sense of humor. The really old buggers, extreme fighting fundies. They don’t like to hear anything in a sermon unless they already agree with me. So, since I like to keep to the text, I get hit from both sides. Like a Civil War soldier wearing gray slacks and a blue blouse. Oh, well.
I’m not sure but a lot of so-called “born-again” Christians are not around anymore. They got snatched up in what was called “The Rapture.” My wife was included in that. I stayed behind. Not because I didn’t want to go but because I never trusted in Christ. Even though I was a preacher. Can you believe there are actually Christian preachers that don’t believe in Christ? Trust me. It happens. It happened to me.
No one seemed to notice that a lot of people just disappeared. Weird, huh? But there were a lot of people who didn’t pay attention to their Bibles and a lot who didn’t notice that Christmas and Easter were about Christ!
No one seemed to care that a lot of people were gone. Of course, there are no more controversies over catering from bakers in Oregon and no more problems with the pizzerias closing in Indiana.
I thought they were a bigoted bunch, those bible-believing Christians, but now all those people are gone. Just missing. Where did they go? Since I was a preacher, I thought I should start reading my Bible. I had never allowed it to be a hindrance when I spoke. No one wanted to hear the Bible anyway. It was too offensive. It was a lot easier for a preacher to study Norman Vincent for appeal. Everyone wanted to think positive so I every week I would shop at the Carnegie Deli for some cheesy aphorisms.
My hair is white now. It’s called a “hoary” head in Scripture. Some people call me “Q-tip.” I tell everyone that I’m just immature for my age.
I feel about 17 but my birth certificate betrays me. I did have a multiple heart by-pass over a decade ago. I said that I wanted to get the operation while I was still young and healthy. I woke up in the middle of the operation. I saw all the surgeon and his crew looking down on me on the table. And then I realized maybe I could work a deal! Maybe I could get a bargain on getting a few more by-passes. After all, I already been opened up! That had to be the major part of the expense, right? So I negotiated since I had a background in sales. Can you believe it? It worked. I got them to throw in three more by-passes for free! I ended up with six new tracts instead of three. When I woke up, I could breathe again!
OK. That’s not true. I told my most recent cardiologist that story and he actually believed it. I could see his jaw drop and his eyes widen. I told him I was just kidding. But doesn’t it make you wonder what happens in the hospitals if he believed me?
Unfortunately, my sermons are not always believed like that. That’s why I resorted to humor throughout my homilies. I had always wanted to be a “stand up” anyway. Even as a preacher I played an “open mic” night at the comedy joint downtown. It went over great, by the way. I think the audience just enjoyed some clean jokes instead of the filth they had been hearing that night.
I think I made the other comedians uncomfortable though. They all knew what I did for a living. One tried his hand at making some spontaneous jokes. I was sitting in the second row. He knew I was a preacher. He said he had been to a strip club. He called out to me, “So parson, have you ever visited a strip club?” I yelled out, “only a strip mall!” The place erupted. The amateur didn’t know what to do. I just figured he shouldn’t try that kind of stuff if he didn’t know how to handle it.
Humor seems to suit these ominous times. Most churches center on entertainment. A biblical church in olden times was structured to build people up in Christ. The serious churches are gone now. The serious Christians, as I said, evaporated.
My wife was one of them. She was a princess. She’d always say, “you’ll miss me when I’m gone.” I didn’t realize how true that was.
A few nights ago, I came home and the dinner corn was boiling over on the stove. The pot roast in the oven was smoking and giving up an acrid smell. My wife was gone. The wind was gently tossing the white gossamer curtains.
The cats were restless. As in protest they pooped on the carpet and peed over the side of the litter. I was about to encounter a lot of people in ministry that were the same way.
I guess I was fortunate, in a sense. Although, no one cared what had happened to so many people It could be because there were so many weird things going on in the world. Hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, political upheaval, borders violated . Everyone seemed to be at each other’s throats. Blogs, tweets, and social media was exploding.
Since the best preachers weren’t around, and since I was retired, I got the call to fill pulpits around the country. They strangely were positioned in a crescent from Alabama to Pennsylvania. My first stop was in a tiny rural town called Ephesus, on the eastern border of Alabama.
I had already preached the section of Revelation that applied to one church just like the one in Ephesus. I had been in touch with the pastor. I was filling in because he was recouping from his own heart operation. He was about my age and had been pastoring at Ephesus for about a decade. He lost his wife about the same time that I did. It had been a year now. Same thing, the dogs were wailing and peppers were boiling over on the stove.
The pastor had found a blog on the internet called “Spiritual Rants.” He loved it. Apparently, it had been written at the end of the last age. He was intrigued by the clarity of its Bible interpretation. As a result, he found the true grace of God.
Now his wife was gone but the Spirit echoed her harangue. He was overtaken. Now he understood. He succumbed. He started living the truth he had avoided. Therefore, the force of God’s newfound power working through him overwhelmed his congregation. They rebelled.
His little church was being harassed by a small group of troublemakers. I had seen it all before. In this church, it was worse. In fact, the entire country seemed to be coming apart at the seams. A few of this group “cat-called” whenever he struck home.
This small strange group had had their own meetings. They were a clique. They discussed their own ideas. Needless to say, they could care less about the Bible. In fact, their new dogma originated in their own flesh. It had been developed ages past.
After the real believers had been evacuated, the citizens had become more and more angry. There had been some riots, some marches, some protests. Blogs had erupted in a fury. Speakers had been shut down and shut out. Christians back then tried to stay out of the fray. Mostly they were agitated. But now they were gone.
This small group gossiped amongst themselves. They complained about the pastor. All of them grumbled together as if they were speaking in tongues under their breath. They plotted to take over and usurp the leadership. They wanted power.
They even had their own rituals. Rituals were important to them. They particularly passed around some wafer-like colored candies. It was their own version of communion.
(to be continued . . . )