Sunday morning, and Meningsbee woke up late.
He wanted to blame his alarm clock, but since he was fully aware that he was the master of all of its decisions, he scurried along, skipping two of his pre-shower rituals.
He scooted into his car, started it and zoomed toward the church at what he hoped was a reasonable speed. He was thinking about what he wanted to share.
The Gospel of Mark. Most certainly.
It had been an interesting week.
After the breakthrough, with Betty and Clarice being reconciled, there was a sweet buzz of contentment among those who were present, but simultaneously, there were around twenty-five former members who had begun meeting in the banquet hall of the nearby Holiday Inn Express. They were stirring a flurry of frustration through the town.
Their contention? Meningsbee had “stolen their church.”
He understood their perspective. Yet there was a push in his spirit to continue the experiment–to find the real meaning of gathering together instead of marching in time to the drone of repetitive hymns.
Arriving, he ran to the door of the church, and then paused. He could hear the sounds of conversation. It was not the usual pre-church verbal exchanges, but instead, purposeful–what sounded like meaningful, prayerful tones.
So Meningsbee chose to enter quietly and climb the stairs to the balcony, where he could view the proceedings.
He had noticed coming in that there were a few more cars in the parking lot, and was delighted to see, when he looked down from his perch, that there were four visitors and a few of the original congregation who had returned.
But most enlightening was the fact that the three chairs he had placed in the front on Saturday night were filled with people, surrounded by other folks who were sharing and praying for one another.
On the seventh row was a young family who Deacon Smitters had befriended, and was quietly but feverishly entertaining with one of his stories.
It was a reverent scene, in the sense of the true meaning of reverence–full of humanity, compassion, tenderness and just a bit of the childlike freedom that was so often absent from the normal Sunday morning drill.
Reverend Meningsbee wanted to just hang out in the balcony and watch. He knew that as soon as he entered, the holy spell would be broken and they would turn to him to find order.
Finally he decided that it was not good for him to stay away for the whole time. He climbed down the stairs and came into the church as the gathering fell silent.
He turned slowly and addressed them.
“I overslept. But I have been here for fifteen minutes, just watching all of you. It is so beautiful for you to treat each other so beautifully. I know that’s not a good sentence, but it’s what I feel. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for loving each other.”
All at once, a hand went up. It was Clarice, from last week’s reconciliation.
“Hello, Pastor. I just wanted to let you know that after Betty and I mended our fences, I got inspired to contact my son in Lincoln, who ran away from home a couple of years ago because he was mad at me for being such a–can I say ‘bitch’ in the church?”
Meningsbee laughed. “You just did.”
Clarice continued. “Anyway, I invited Michael home, we made peace, and I told him to come here with me today to seal the deal.”
The congregation burst into applause without being coaxed. It was spontaneous and it was electrifying.
One after another, there were testimonies about those who came and sat in the chair to receive God’s grace through the kindness of God’s people.
The good Reverend just stood back and shut up. There was a small part of him that felt useless, but most of him felt he had discovered his true use.
Lead the sheep to the green pastures, and then let them eat.
It came time for the end of the service, and Meningsbee wasn’t sure what to do.
Betty stood to her feet and said, “Did you know that Clarice’s son, Michael, plays a mean piano and can really sing?”
Michael feigned a bit of embarrassment, but also exuded a willingness to display his talent. So Meningsbee pointed to the piano, and Michael slowly rose to his feet, walked over, sat down and played and sang “Let It Be” by the Beatles.
It was an inspiring conclusion to the morning.
Meningsbee listened to the song very carefully.
“Let It Be.”
What good advice.