Thursday, June 7, 2012
The Preacher’s Corner
Thunderstorm good time for fire drill
Sunday during church we had quite a thunderstorm. It began as I was reading the Scripture, and the clap came as a nice punctuation to the end of the reading. However, as I was mid-sermon, the rain began pouring down. You could hear it cascading off the roof, and the lightning bolts were coming fast and furious. We are already dealing with the consequences of a lightning strike or power surge that fried the electronics in our organ, so you might say I had “lightning on my mind.” As I was preaching, there was a loud “pop” just above my head, then another, and a third! I thought it was electricity surging through the chandelier. It was not a comfortable idea to me.
Since we worship on the second floor, and many of us are older folk, I decided that if the church had been struck, or was about to be, the better part of wisdom would be to evacuate. So I announced that we would move downstairs to conclude the service.
As we were heading down, Steve Gresham, one of my very best church officers, reminded me that we had not yet received the morning offerings. Thinking that omission would not be good, I asked Steve if he would retrieve the offering plates, and when we reassembled in the fellowship hall downstairs, we had the offering, said the 23rd Psalm, and I pronounced the blessing. By then the storm had abated and the rain had ceased!
I got a little teasing about, “O ye of little faith,” but nobody complained that they had gotten only half a sermon. In truth, I had thought for some time we needed to have a “fire drill,” and this was the occasion to do it. I think it worked pretty well.
All this reminded me of what happened during the earthquake when I was 12, on a Sunday morning at my home church in Cleveland, Mississippi. I was off with my grandmother visiting my aunt and uncle in Charleston, Illinois, but this is what was relayed to us in an excited phone call received about one o’clock that afternoon.
At our Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, our minister, Mr. Gentry, had just begun his sermon when the earthquake began. The people heard a definite rumble and could see a visible rippling in the side walls of the sanctuary. Mr. Gentry asked the congregation to file out of the room calmly, and said that before they did that, he would lead in prayer. However, when he concluded and opened his eyes, he found that the room was empty!
Meanwhile across town at Immanuel Baptist, where my best friend’s father was pastor, Bro. Hurt was preaching on the resurrection, and when the tremor struck, was reading the Scripture about the earthquake that opened the tomb. (I have since heard accounts of such “effects” happening in conjunction with ministers’ sermons in various places, but this is one that really happened and I know people who can verify it. It was written up in The Commercial Appeal.) Mr. Hurt’s congregation tittered a bit at the stirring of the ground, but stayed put and he delivered his sermon.
Afterward, when people compared stories, there was quite a bit of teasing that the “predestined” Presbyterians had lacked faith and fled their church, while the “free will” Baptists had shown resolve and completed their hour of worship.
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