A Rousing Sermon

PLEASE NOTE:  This true anecdote from my childhood is not meant to disparage any religious denomination.  I am a practicing Christian.  I do believe, however, that since we were made in His likeness, God has a sense of humor and does "chuckle" with love when He see's some of the things we do in practicing our religion.



The nearest church when I was a child was seventeen miles east in Coffeyville, Kansas.  I attended services with my parents sporadically. Occasionally we had Wednesday night prayer meetings in Caney in the home of two elderly spinster sisters who had lived together throughout their long life. The furniture in their home was Victorian and delicate, probably dating back to their youth.  Their parlor was large enough to seat the eight to ten participants who attended these services. These prayer meetings were  presided over by various church “Eldersr” who came from Coffeyville or elsewhere.  The Elder’s job was to give a rousing sermon, then lead the group in testimony and prayer.

Prayer meetings began with a couple of hymns, after which the Elder delivered a reasonably brief sermon intended to stir the’ consciousness and memory as to blessings they had received or prayers they wanted to share.  There were two parts of these prayer meetings that required audience participation.  First, all were invited to “testify” as to how God had made His presence known in their lives.  Human nature being what it is that part of the prayer meeting sometimes seemed to me to become a “Can You Top This?” session with first one then another of the folks vying to testify as to who had the most powerful connection with God.

After the testimonies were heard, anyone who cared to offer a prayer was given the floor to pray aloud for whatever purpose moved him.  Depending upon the ability and needs of the person praying, some of those prayers reached epic proportions in terms of comprehensive coverage of human needs and length.  Others were brief little supplications or thanksgivings.  A measure of how effective the Elder was came in part, from how much audience participation there was following his sermon.

One of our Elders was a ruddy-faced man I knew only as “Brother Barker.”  Brother Barker was an intense orator capable of feeling and expressing passionate beliefs and moving anecdotes.  His prayer meetings were generally fruitful.  He carried with him a tabletop lectern to hold his Bible, religious books, and notes.  The sisters provided a small end table for him to set them upon.  It was a nice little end table.  Its spindly legs and delicate filigree work befitted two quiet old ladies whose youth had been spent in Victorian times.

One Wednesday night Brother Barker led us through the opening hymn, delivered a stirring opening prayer, then launched into the kind of stem-winding sermon of which he was a master.  It was filled with exhortation, trepidation, and peril.  He was in great form that night.  For five, then ten, minutes his voice rose and fell, his hands gesticulated, and his face grew flushed.  Folks were clearly beginning to feel The Spirit.  Midway through a sentence he brought his fist crashing down upon the lectern to deliver stunning emphasis to the point he was making.

His exuberance was too much for the sister’s little table.  One of its legs shattered as if it had been hit with a cannonball.  Brother Barker’s lectern, books, and glass of water coursed over the floor and carpet.   Eyes that had been beginning to focus on ethereal, other worldly things suddenly snapped into focus on the here and now.  After a moment of shocked silence, there was a scramble to pick up the books and shattered table spilled water. Brother Barker offered a clearly embarrassed apology while the spinster sisters avowed their disdain for the table.  The prayer meeting continued but The Spirit had fled. It was impossible even for Brother Barker to rekindle the budding fervor that had been `a-building’.  The prayer meeting limped to a close and we all went home.  I, and perhaps a few others, feeling we had been more entertained than inspired.

One Sunday one of our more mystically inclined Elders was scheduled to preach.  He was a good man, if rather flamboyant, who frequently laid claim to having “visions” provided to him so that he might grow spiritually and help others grow.   There were two chairs behind the preacher’s podium.  One was for the preacher of the day and the other was always for the pastor of the church.  The pastor’s job was to offer opening and closing prayers, provide a role model for listening attentively to the sermon, and generally, preside.  After the opening prayer, our preacher began and soon warmed to his subject.  He began to recount visions and dreams he had experienced that were relevant to his topic.  Although the church had no qualms about their members receiving visions, such direct messages from God were suspect.

As he sat behind our preacher, listening, our pastor showed, first keen interest, then obvious concern as the sermon delved ever deeper into a swirling mysticism of visions and personal revelations.  Midway through the sermon the pastor stood up, walked to the podium and said, “That’s enough, Brother “B”, sit down.”

The congregation was breathless.  Having a preacher “silenced” in front of them was high drama that had never happened before.  But the pastor had the right to do so and he had done it.  Brother “B” took great exception to being silenced and there were a few moments of wrangling at the podium.  Ultimately Brother “B” accepted the reprimand and sat down.  The pastor said no more about it. He just asked us to stand and sing a hymn after which he offered a concluding prayer and dismissed us for the day.  Brother “B” was censured no further and memories of his silencing faded over time.  His sermons thereafter, however, did not rely on supernatural visitations.

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Tom Cormier (website) on Sunday, 31 July 2011 14:53

I knew something was coming after such a great setup. Ol' Brother B. Can't make this stuff up.

I knew something was coming after such a great setup. Ol' Brother B. Can't make this stuff up.
Millard Don Carriker (website) on Sunday, 31 July 2011 21:42

No, every word true. In my old age and looking back, I had a wild and varied childhood. A lot happens in small towns.

No, every word true. In my old age and looking back, I had a wild and varied childhood. A lot happens in small towns.