The Celestial Chronicles (12)
Stories imagining Christian service from Heaven’s point of view
As Al Peabody began playing the wrong music for the children’s chorus on the screen, Heidi Vaulting restlessly twiddled the large rings around her wedding ring finger and huffed a deep sigh. It was one thing making a mistake once, but Al did it all the time. The children might laugh, but it was beyond a joke to her. Her sigh was louder than she had intended because Al looked up from his all-fingers-and-thumbs approach to righting the situation (which always made matters ten times worse) and when he met her disapproving glance, his neck went an even deeper shade of red. Honestly! The children tittered when the tune of ‘Jesus loves me’ began to play – and, once again, did not fit the words on the screen. In the end, eight-year-old Daniel got up on the stage and the right words and tune began in harmony at last.
Was this really the best the church could produce? Al, a middle-aged bachelor, hampered by shyness and inherent uncertainty, was the most unlikely candidate for Sunday School Superintendent. He confused the children’s names. He always made at least one mistake matching the correct children’s chorus on the PowerPoint slide with the music playing merrily from the amplifier. The kids giggled, and he smiled and blushed and muddled through, and Heidi and the other mums watching rolled their eyes and shook their heads. The Bible story was, in Heidi’s opinion, badly presented, and usually went wrong when he attempted anything beyond the most basic illustrations. The quiz was a shambles and the points system so riddled with inaccuracies (it seemed that, among his many other deficiencies, Al could not add up) that no one was ever sure whether the team that was declared the winner had actually won. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but even so! The kids didn’t care, but Heidi did. One week her eldest, Lucy-Ann, was inconsolable because she unjustly missed out on the prize. Al had fumbled through an apology when Heidi had bluntly shared her thoughts with him, but that didn’t sort the constant problems, did it?
With all the trendy, charismatic young men in the church, you would have thought Al would have stepped back and let one of them take over the job! She would have to get on at Brian again to mention it to the elders; she’d already made her thoughts abundantly clear, but perhaps if he spoke to them too, something would be done about it. Brian, who was great with kids, couldn’t take on the job himself, of course; he was far too busy getting established in his new job; he needed Sunday afternoon to get organised for his hectic week. But there must be someone more suitable. Then Al could move on and do … well, something else instead. Something quiet and more suited to his character, where he couldn’t cause any harm…
After Sunday School, exhausted and disheartened, Al Peabody let himself through the front door of his small home and sank into his favourite chair. As he did whenever doubts crept in, he began to pray. Was there truly no one else to take charge of the Sunday School? Must he really continue…?
Elias, Al’s personal angelic guardian, bent low over the hunched figure. He knew for certain what Al often suspected – that he was never originally intended to take on the role of Sunday School Superintendent. Al only knew that the Lord had led him to fill this role, no matter how hard he found it. So, Al prayed for strength and continued.
Elias had additional heavenly knowledge about the situation too. He knew that in the heavenly records, the individual equipped for, and assigned to, the Sunday School work wasn’t Al Peabody. Instead, it was to have been the job of a young man of great ability and suitable gift; a clever, energetic young man whose head had been turned from ambitions for Heaven by a job offer he just could not refuse. His name was Brian Vaulting. Nowadays, all Brian’s energy went into improving his earthly prospects. Brian told himself it was just for now, and that one day soon he would be more involved in the church again; he might even get his Sunday afternoons back to help with the Sunday School. Mind you, he didn’t know what his wife would say about that; she had urged him to take the new job – she loved the additional money he would make; she thought it would be years before he would have more time for church activities.
The angel watched the tired man in the chair – until at last Al drifted into restful sleep. Elias wondered if Heidi Vaulting would ever understand the repercussions of urging her husband to take that all-demanding job for earthly gain. Those repercussions went far beyond her weekly frustrations with the man who was valiantly trying to fill the gap she ought to have encouraged her husband to occupy. Brian also lost out on the heavenly riches which were now placed eternally to Al Peabody’s credit.
One day, in fact, when days have ceased to exist in the never-ending ages of eternity, Brian’s future role will be awarded based on his faithfulness to the cause of Christ. Just now, his eternal job prospects by no means match the temporary importance of his job on earth. His grand earthly job title and team of fifty employees mean nothing in the world to come. In fact, unless things yet change in the Realm of Time, he will rule over far less than fifty; instead, he’ll be one of Al Peabody’s many assistants.
Heidi will be one too.