Pas Carl was nervous.
This particular Sunday fell on Christmas Eve, and big plans had been made, choir numbers prepared, and even a special video tribute to the birth of Jesus had been filmed by Russ and Tracy (who by the way, had recently gotten married.)
The sanctuary was packed. Where was Meningsbee?
Pas Carl called his house. No answer. He kept looking out the window, gazing past the four inches of snow that had fallen two days earlier in honor of the season, for signs of his friend. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful, frosty Nebraska morning.
Yes, all that was lacking was one minister.
Everything was in place. Everything was prepared.
There was an understanding between Pas Carl and Meningsbee that if for some reason the senior minister was late, or out of town, that the associate would be prepared to step in and take his place.
So as the assistant looked out the window, waiting for his mentor, he saw a young boy coming up the steps, carrying a red envelope. The boy opened the door, entered the church and said, “I’m looking for Pas Carl.”
Carl raised his hand, and the little boy handed him the envelope. “What is this?” asked Carl.
“I don’t know,” said the boy. “Some old man gave me ten dollars to bring it here.”
The lad started to walk away, then stopped and turned around.”Oh, I almost forgot. The old man said not to open it until the end of the service.”
Pas Carl did not know what any of it meant, but it was time to begin, and Meningsbee would probably do one of his slip-ins about twenty minutes after the start, and everything would be fine.
The Christmas Eve service was gorgeous. A decision had been made to blend the best of contemporary music with traditional by placing a rock and roll band, which now attended the church, onstage with the piano, organ and a string quartet, especially hired for the occasion.
Everybody was excited, thrilled and filled with the music and joy of the season. Still no Meningsbee.
The service was completed, and Pas Carl stood to his feet. He was about to apologize and tell the visitors that they had missed the pastor, and what a great man he was, when he realized that he still had the envelope the boy had brought.
He opened it up and unfolded a letter. At the top, written in magic marker, was “PLEASE READ TO EVERYONE.”
Pas Carl glanced down and saw that it was signed by Meningsbee, so he obediently commenced to share.
“To my dear friends, church family, souls who have struggled with me and to the visitors who have always brought such blessing to this house, I apologize for not being with you this morning.
“I have taken my leave. I realize it is not ideal to do it this way. I probably should have given much notice, visited each one of you individually and sat through a tribute dinner, where each of you would have told sweet little lies about how good you thought I was.
“But that’s not me. Some of you may think it’s selfish for me to leave without notice, but I leave as I came–a surprise–with a deep love in my heart for each and every one of you, and a stronger conviction than ever before that possessing the mind of Christ is the only way to save the church.
“I can’t tell you what the past three years have meant to me. I cannot possibly measure the value each one of you has to my soul. But I have literally sat around for the past sixteen weeks–eight of them in a cast–watching this beautiful unit function without me, and with such a magnificent sheen of glory that I realized that it was time for me to find my next adventure.
“For after all, I’m really not a pastor. I am an explorer. I don’t know how you would classify that in Biblical terms, but I’m on Earth not just to be a Christian, but to be a follower of Jesus, who takes His heart everywhere.
“It would be my great suggestion that you hire Pas Carl as your new leader. He’s young. He will make mistakes. When you see him do things that remind you of Jesus, encourage him. And when he doesn’t, pray for him.
“I might drop in from time to time. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure where I’m going. But wherever it is, it’s going to be very difficult for them to be smarter, more loving, more generous and more human than the saints I’ve met here in Garsonville.
“It was an honor to be your pastor. It was more than an honor to be your friend. Pray for me as I pray for you.
“So my Christmas gift to you this year is to graduate you onto the next phase of your journey. We shall not do it together, but nothing can separate us.
“And my gift to myself is to go out and explore.
“With all my heart, with all my devotion, with all my hopes, with all my dreams, and with all my strength,
Reverend Richard Meningsbee”
Pas Carl finished the letter and fell to his knees in tears. The congregation wept, but there was also a great joy.
Each one of them knew that Meningsbee would eventually have to leave. He was a restless soul, whose itch was set by the Divine. They were just fortunate that for a blessed period of time, they were able to feel his warmth.
The congregation departed hugging each other. There were 345 human beings present that morning, and all of them left having felt a little bit of Jesus.