- March 2014
- December 2013
- June 2013
- March 2013
- September 2013
- From the Editor’s Desk
- Bloom Where You Are Planted and Where You Are Transplanted
- The Change Game
- Ten Tender Weeks: The Countdown
- The Chap Who Lives in a Flat
- Conspiracy Theory
- The Closers
- He Knows
- Surprising Steps with a Friendly Wind
- If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!
- Walking the Talk
- Message in a Bottle
- January 2013
By Geoffrey Johnstone
“Good morning, my name is Andrew Burrow.”
The young man looked like an unmade bed. The mass of curly hair that fell over a pair of thick glasses framed a round but cheerful face. Yet despite his obvious faults Andrew Burrow exuded a strange sense of joy.
“Pastor Davis still has the flu. Hopefully he will be back next week.”
Just my luck, I fumed. What does a bible college student know about life?
“My text, this morning, is Romans 8:35, ‘who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’”
Andrew Burrow closed his bible and walked to the edge of the stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have a terrible memory for names. Faces are not a problem, but names elude me. Last Thursday I caught my usual bus to college when I was confronted by a man who smiled and wished me a good day.”
The young man was speaking freely without notes.
“Who was he? Where had I seen him before? My bus arrived at its destination and I thought no more about it. But that night, out of the blue, I suddenly remembered. His name was Bill Hamilton and he had worked in my father’s garage when I was a small boy.”
The preacher held out his hand to illustrate what was coming.
“Your brain is a three pound answering machine. Imagine a little man in a vast warehouse filled with filing cabinets. Everything you have ever experienced is recorded there. That little man is constantly searching for the answers to all your questions. He exists to help you make sense of your life.”
Suddenly my interest was piqued.
“Why did my business go broke? Why am I so unlucky? Why did my wife leave me?”
Each question landed like a blow. I leaned forward to listen more closely.
“The problem isn’t that you are searching for answers. No, the problem is we have a spiritual enemy who is trying to take control of the question.”
Andrew Burrow’s face lit up with a disarming smile. It was hard not to like him.
“In the book of Genesis the Devil asked Adam and Eve if they could trust God’s word.” The young man cupped his hands and shouted, “Wrong question!”
The congregation laughed.
“Then the Devil asked God if Job could be trusted.” Andrew Burrow shook his head with sorrow. “All that suffering came from one question.
“But in the Gospels the tables are turned. The Devil tempts Jesus. ‘Are you really the son of God?’ Guess what! Jesus does not let him take control the question.”
People around me started to nod with approval.
“If you let the Devil control the question then you will eventually find the world’s answers. Somewhere in your mind is the memory of failure. Somewhere in your mind is the memory of rejection.”
Andrew Burrow began to pace the length of the stage.
“There was a time when I could not sleep because I was so worried that the cold finger of accusation would find a reason for all my misfortune.”
Somehow he was preaching with wisdom beyond his years.
“Let’s return to my text. Can anything separate us from the love of God?”
Suddenly the young man reached into his jacket and retrieved a piece of paper.
“Last Friday I sat a Greek Exegesis exam, and this is my result.”
A handful of students in the front row laughed good naturedly at his misfortune.
“C minus!” he cried, covering his face with embarrassment.
“So I took this result and wrote ‘R835’ at the bottom of the page: Romans chapter 8 and verse thirty five. Can this terrible result stop God from loving me?”
I had heard enough. Slipping quietly from the church I walked quickly to my car. The letter from my wife’s lawyer was in the glove compartment. The events of the past few months had left me shaken and confused.
Taking a pen from the console I wrote “R835” across the page in large letters. It was a start. The church bulletin noted the times for next week’s service.
“Who knows,” I muttered. “Maybe the kid will preach again.”
* * *
GEOFFREY JOHNSTONE is a retired pastor who lives in the Hunter Valley on the New South Wales coast in Australia. These days he spends his time writing for pleasure and playing with his grandchildren. He is also in demand as an after dinner speaker where he volunteers as a fundraiser for high school chaplaincy. You can read more by Geoffrey at FaithWriters.com or his website, The Gum Tree Pulpit http://www.thegumtreepulpit.com/