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Hometown Preacher

by Nicole Crosier Parker

Pastor Edward Phillips leaned down to pluck a handful of daisies along the side of the road. “Sister Schlade loves flowers,” he told the spotted hound that loped beside him. “These ought to make a bright spot in her kitchen.”

Soon he turned up a narrow path leading to a weathered cabin on the hillside.

“Well, look who’s here!” A tanned, pleasant-faced woman straightened from weeding a row of cabbage plants. “What brings you here today, pastor?” She smoothed her hair with dirt-stained hands. “At last I can introduce you to my Peter!”

“That’s the main reason I am here.” The pastor looked past the woman to the young man striding toward the house. “And is this Peter?”

“I guess that’s me.” The young man smiled self-consciously and slipped his arm around his mother’s shoulders.

“Well, I’m very glad to meet you.” The pastor reached out to shake Peter’s hand. “Oh, I don’t mind a little dirt,” he added as the young man tried to wipe the garden soil off his hand. “It’s good to shake the hand of a working man.”

“That’s my Peter.” Mrs. Schlade practically glowed. “Already my house is looking better, and he’s been here less than a week! And look at this stack of firewood.”

Within a few moments the two men were seated at the kitchen table, sipping clear well water, while Mrs. Schlade found a vase for the daisies.

Peter smiled at Pastor Phillips. “What an honor to be visited by the pastor!”

“Actually, Peter, I came to ask a favor of you,” Pastor Phillips replied. “I’d like you to preach this Sabbath. I know you’ve finished your theology studies and have been working for the last two years with the mountain people. I was hoping you would share what the Lord has been doing in your life.”

Peter’s eyes widened with dismay. “Oh—I—I couldn’t!” he stammered. “I mean, of course I have preached many times—but I can’t here—not ever!”

“Why not?” the pastor asked. “Hasn’t the Holy Spirit blessed your work with the people in Tennessee?”

“Well, yes, but the people here—they know me.” The young man’s voice dropped to a whisper. “They know how I used to be, the mess I made of my life. They would never—could never—respect me. I have accepted that.”

“Has Jesus been working in your life?”

The young man’s eyes brightened at the mention of his Savior’s name. “Oh, yes!” But then his face clouded again. “But I can’t—I just can’t—they would never, ever listen to me.”

“Nonsense.” The pastor leaned forward and gripped the young man’s hand. “You have a message to give to this church. I am sure of it.”

Peter stared at a speck on the tablecloth for a long moment. At last he broke the silence. “To be honest, if you even put in the bulletin that I am going to preach, few will come.” He glanced up, his face crimson. “Especially those who knew me. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the deacons walked out on me.”

“What if they did?” the pastor chuckled. “They have a lot to learn. But we can’t decide what to do based on other people’s foolish behavior.”

“Well, if you don’t publish my name in the bulletin, maybe—”

An hour later, when the pastor rejoined his dog outside, he carried a triumphant smile and a secret.

Distraught deacons
Sabbath morning dawned damp and cloudy. As the pastor bounded up the steps of the church and into the foyer, he almost ran into a stern-faced deacon. “Pastor Phillips, who is preaching today?”

“You’ll see!” A grin lighted the pastor’s face.

The deacon frowned. “Is it possible that Peter Schlade could be speaking?”

“Could be.” The pastor nodded.

“If he is speaking,” the deacon barked, “I think I’ll just excuse myself. For years, that young man was the plague of my Sabbath School class. Never once did he show any sign of repentance.”

Another deacon marched up. “I think I might leave, too. In Peter Schlade’s short life, he has done more to dishonor God than anyone else I know!”

The pastor looked the two deacons square in the face. “If you feel the Lord can’t speak through Peter, please do take yourselves somewhere else. But ask yourselves one question: Can the Holy Spirit go with you?” The pastor gave them a piercing glance, and then strode into the sanctuary.

Weeping preacher
At ten minutes before eleven o’clock, the pastor headed for his office. The sound of a broken voice made him pause.

“Lord Jesus, I am not worthy to speak for You. How can I stand up there, where noble and worthy men are supposed to stand?”

Pastor Phillips slipped into the room and knelt beside the weeping young man. Together they prayed for the Holy Spirit to speak through him.

After the prayer, Peter smiled. “When I came in this morning,” he told the pastor, “I overheard my old Sabbath School teacher talking to someone. He—he said it was too bad that we weren’t going to get anything worthwhile from the sermon today.” A resolute look crossed the young man’s face, and he sprang to his feet. “But God has answered me. I know I cannot speak here, so I asked God to do it, and He has given me a message that will keep me from wasting the hour—a message straight from His throne.”

Message from the throne
As Peter walked out onto the platform to begin the service, a few faces registered surprise and even dismay. The words “wonder what he’s doing up there” seemed to be written on faces throughout the congregation. No one walked out, although two frowning deacons stood with crossed arms at the back of the sanctuary.

“My brothers and sisters, please turn to the first chapter of Acts.” Peter’s voice wavered at first, but it steadied as he began to read from verse 8. “ ‘Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me.’ ” Laying down his Bible, he walked to the side of the pulpit, quoting the rest of the passage from memory in a clear, strong voice. His eyes swept the sanctuary.

“It is not easy for me to preach to you. My Sabbath School teacher stands in the back there; he endured me in his class for many years.” As Peter’s gaze fell on him, the hostile deacon studied his shoes.

Peter continued. “My mother has cried many tears on her knees beside her bed, praying for me.” Peter squared his shoulders. “But today I am not here to talk about me, the obnoxious lad you have all known. I am here to tell you about the God who changes lives.”

Peter’s story flowed easily, without even a stammer. He told of his conversion and acceptance of the call to ministry. Faces all over the sanctuary brightened in surprise at his stories of the miracles God had been doing through Peter’s ministry in the mountains, and the sturdy little church and mission school that were now being built there. His eyes dampened as he closed with his testimony of the beauty of life with the Holy Spirit as his Guide. Then he paused and bowed his head for a moment. The church was silent, except for a few conspicuous sniffles.

Peter raised his head. “It may be that some of you would like to know the Christ I have shared with you today. He is my best friend. Some of you are my old friends, even classmates; I know you well—but only you know what is in your hearts. Will you surrender your life to Jesus this morning? Will you let Him direct every part of it? If so, please come and stand with me here at the front of the church.”

The congregation stirred as people slipped out of their seats. But the first two to reach the front came all the way from the back of the sanctuary.

From Young Disciple magazine, Volume 23, Number 37.

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