Stories imagining Christian service from Heaven’s point of view
The Visiting Preacher
It had all been going so well. All the right people were assembled – in their respectable best, looking entirely appropriate for the occasion. Far more than usual had gathered for prayer, but this was a ‘special’ prayer meeting for their ‘special week’ of Bible teaching. It would give the Very Important Preacher exactly the right feeling about the church in the highly respectable town of Much Preening. Lisa Priggott tried not to gloat as she looked around, surreptitiously watching the Very Important Preacher who smiled benignly on them all. She was sure he was very impressed.
But then they walked in, Pete and Amy Wainwright, the oddball couple who had recently joined the church – new Christians who, quite frankly, didn’t have a clue how to dress for the occasion, or behave in a dignified manner like the rest of them, or speak to a man like the Very Important Preacher. Lisa had been half anticipating their late arrival; they hadn’t missed a meeting since they had joined the church, and, since the timing of their bus meant they were always ten minutes late, their entrance was impossible to miss.
She sighed. Bless them, and all that, but they did mess up the appearance of things. The Very Important Preacher noticed them, of course; he could hardly have missed them rushing in, their waterproof macs well-drenched and rustling loudly in the holy quiet. Oh my! She was even wearing wellington boots! Lisa closed her eyes. She didn’t want to see any more.
Tov was the Prayer Sentinel assigned to record the prayer requests ascending from the church of Much Preening at 7.30pm in the Realm of Time. He waited with quill poised. Aside from a few jottings, the eloquently framed petitions of many of the participants remained unrecorded; they were spoken for the benefit of the hearers on earth (in particular, the Very Important Preacher), not for the Courts of Heaven. The prayers of the Preacher (who didn’t think he was ‘Very Important’) kept Tov busy, and a flurry of activity ensued as the angelic Couriers, Scouts, Heralds and others were despatched to process his earnest requests.
Thankfully the Wainwrights arrived. Then Hallel, Tov’s fellow Prayer Sentinel, came to help record the prayer requests that ensued. The supporting angels were suddenly very busy indeed.
Since the Very Important Preacher was staying in their house, Lisa felt some responsibility for him. In her mind, she had lined up exactly the right families to host him for his evening meal. She knew there would be plenty of offers – they were famed for being a hospitable and friendly church – it would just take a little management to ensure he had The Best Experience during his stay. She watched the church members warily as they waited to greet the Very Important Man after the prayer meeting.
They, the Priggotts, would host the meal on Monday – which took care of tomorrow night. Lisa already had the three-course menu planned (in fact, the pavlova was already made) and had engaged two other Highly Respectable couples to join them. The Worthys had approached the Important Man and had picked Tuesday. She smiled and nodded. She would let Mrs Worthy know not to make pavlova; she would probably do her famous quadruple chocolate cheesecake instead. Wednesday was chosen by the Burberrys. Mrs Burberrys peach and raspberry cobbler would go down a treat. Everything was going very nicely to plan. Now, here came the Barbours and promptly booked Thursday; if the Winalotts could snatch Friday, they had made it safely through the week in the best possible fashion…
Lisa’s eyes widened as she saw the Very Important Preacher step aside and greet the rain-soaked Wainwrights. She had been keeping an eye on them – in case they had any grand notions of entertaining their Important Guest. Surely not…
To her horror, Lisa heard the Very Important Preacher promptly accept an invitation to dinner on Friday. She thought that, perhaps, Amy’s smile faltered as Lisa instantly joined them. It wasn’t much of a compliment to her, but she had the Very Important Preacher’s interests at heart.
Amy was nervous, almost apologetic. “We were just asking Geoff if he could come to tea on Friday,” she explained to Lisa.
Geoff?! They were even calling the Great Man by his first name!
Lisa smiled kindly. “I think that the Winalotts were hoping to host him that night.”
Amy looked crestfallen. She knew they couldn’t offer him much. By the time she and Pete had finished work there was no way she could provide a lavish meal, even if they could afford it. She’d secretly hoped the friendly-looking Preacher would be happy with a microwave meal. Was that so wrong?
The Preacher intervened. “I’m afraid I’ve already accepted Pete and Amy’s kind invitation,” he said, smiling warmly at Amy. “I’m sure the Winalotts will understand.”
Lisa stuck a smile on her face and nodded. She wondered if she might persuade the Winalotts to invite the Very Important Preacher and the Wainwrights for Friday night? Otherwise, he might even have to make do with a microwave meal!
The heavenly rewards accrued for hospitality that week in Much Preening would have been an eye-opener to those involved. Well, perhaps the Preacher had some idea.
A scribe made the final entries in the records and collected the treasure from the Treasure House of Heaven. A few pieces of silver were added to the rooms that belonged to the Priggotts, Worthys, Burberrys and Barbours; most of their hospitality was for human praise and they had already received their reward.
Amy Wainwright will one day discover that her extra-early rise on Friday morning to prepare a fruit salad for the meal that night, and the simple plates of food she served around the kitchen table, were not only a great relief to the Preacher but the sparkling gems she earned were far more than all the others put together.