Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Preacher’s Corner
By Rev. Dr. Milton Winter

“I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid”

It happened again last Friday. Someone came to my door and I was in the shower! It seems inevitable that no matter when I choose to take a bath, someone comes a-knocking at my door. The convergence of visitors arriving and my efforts at cleanliness seem to be hideously coordinated. Hence, I never have any company!

I suppose you have read one of those Left Behind novels by now. The premise is that the Lord will suddenly return and all His followers will be caught up with Him in the air. Terrible things happen to those “left behind.” I will be among their number because without a doubt when the Lord comes back, I shall be in the shower.

There is a story about a new minister, who resolved to begin his labors in a certain parish by visiting each home. He approached the first house and rapped assertively on the screen door, only to be greeted by silence. Undeterred, he rapped again, and with signs of life obvious from the inside, he tried a third time by pounding. Somewhat miffed the parson took out one of his calling cards and scrawled the words “Revelation 3:20” and placed it under the knocker — Revelation 3:20, reading, of course, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man will open the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with me.”

The next day the minister found a small envelope in the mailbox of his parsonage. Written apologetically it contained also the reference to a single verse, Genesis 3:10: “I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Such are the perils for visitor and visitee alike when others make “drop-in” visits.

Of course, in our modern world, it is easy to call ahead, or even send an e-mail. More than once, I have been working in the back of my house only to have the phone ring and someone say that they are standing on my front porch knocking away. Declining hearing plus an annoying capacity to become self-absorbed in whatever I am doing at the computer compounds my tendency to become “hospitality challenged.”

The other Sunday, my telephone rang at 6 a.m. On the other end of the line was a minister-colleague down Louisville-way, wishing to discuss arrangements for a church meeting to be hosted by his congregation some three months hence.

Whatever possessed my friend to ring me out of a sound sleep to discuss this upcoming event at such an hour, I will never know. But all through the conversation I kept thinking how my grandmother told me that one should not ring the telephone except in emergencies before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (and in her case, please, not between 1 and 2 because everybody knew my grandmother took a nap).

I helped a small congregation over in the Delta for some months and soon became used to calls from one of the members (a planter’s wife who described herself as a ‘farm girl,’ who delighted in ringing my telephone well before my accustomed hour of arising).

It is not that I sleep that late, either. So I found myself foaming with indignation when I received an apologetic call the other day at 2 in the afternoon, “hoping I did not wake you.” (Ministers do not like the implication that they are lazy, though by the same token, we like our people to think we spend intense hours praying for the salvation of their souls.)

My annoyance was quickly dissipated, however, when the caller explained that she had more than one Milton to call and had forgotten which she was dialing, and that the other Milton (Bell, I think), worked nights.

My frustrations are mild compared to a colleague who is a college professor. One day his front door flew open and aroused the dog, who went charging outside and discovered the college president. Alarmed at the disturbance the dog went into full defense mode and bit the president on the seat of his pants.

My terriers would do the same thing, given the opportunity, and providing, of course, they were able to nip so high. Dog owners are continually embarrassed by the antics of their pets.

Meanwhile, I am waiting for somebody to tell me a tale of a preacher who interrupted a sermon to answer his cell phone. As Queen Elizabeth quipped recently in Westminster Abbey when one of the wretched things began ringing while she was creating knights for the Royal Order of the Bath: “We’d better stop and let you answer that; it could be something important!”

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