An excerpt from Testament, An Unexpected Return – written in 2016 but the message in the preacher’s homily to the folks in Shiloh is so relevant today…
Chapter Three -“Tug-of-War Sermon” (Testament, An Unexpected Return)
Arnie draped his navy blazer across the chair behind the pulpit, rolled-up his sleeves and loosened his red, white and blue tie. Undaunted by the church’s aging air conditioner, he plunged into the sermon. Twenty minutes in, Arnie paused and took stock of the sanctuary aflutter with bulletins flapping. He motioned for Mary to ready herself at the piano.
Arnie sipped from his water bottle, yanked a monogrammed handkerchief from his hip pocket and dabbed the nape of his neck and forehead. He closed his black leather Bible and stepped to the edge of the platform.
“As much as I’d like to complete my holiday homily, I’ll conclude early today.” He slid his finger from holding his place in the Bible as he gazed upon our relieved faces.
Arnie took another long swig of water and cleared his throat. “My dear friends and church family, we have enjoyed a wonderful Independence Day weekend. But lest we forget, even in our beloved Shiloh we cannot escape the mounting crisis America faces. Our country and community are being yanked and pulled in a tug-of-war not much different from what we witnessed at the Jubilee, except on a grander scale with far-reaching significance. On one end, staunch traditionalists clinging to the past stubbornly hunker down straining against the opposing end of the rope gripped by determined progressive visionaries pursuing changes for a brighter future. How can such a struggle be good for all of our people? Without God’s indubitable blessing, the America we know and love, and the Shiloh we likewise know and love, will surely stumble and succumb to the infighting.”
Arnie lifted his Bible over his head. “Our future rests in God’s hands alone. Each day, God proves that we can hold fast to our past while envisioning a better tomorrow. God uses our tug-of-war battles to safeguard the quantity and velocity of the inevitable changes. Thankfully, God has twisted the strands of the tug-of-war rope to withstand the back and forth strain of our fickleness.”
Arnie waved his Bible from side to side. “Regardless of which side you choose to stand on, rest assured our struggles are for the good of all who love and trust God. May all of us embrace the struggles caused by our differences as God’s way of making us stronger for the challenges that lie ahead for our country and community.”
Modest relief arrived as we entered the main foyer. The wide-open doors at each end provided a slight breeze as we mingled among the few people not ready to venture into the sunshine.
Stationed at the main entrance, Arnie clutched his handkerchief in one hand and greeted members as they filed past with the other. Judy stood beside him in a blue and yellow, sleeveless summer dress and showed little ill effects from the uncomfortable, humid conditions. She kept the line moving, smiling and whispering to each person as they exited and sometimes used a slight, gentle nudge to prevent anyone from lingering too long.
As I appreciated the teamwork of my pastor and his wife, Martha grabbed my elbow and looked at Liddy. “How about y’all meet us at Bubba’s? Sam and Susanna are going. We’re about to invite Arnie and Judy as well.” Martha then eyed me. “I know you’re game. What do you say?”
This is not a blue or red, progressive or conservative, issue — it’s an issue with the nature of all folks. We innately argue over whether our glass is half-full or half-empty, although the same amount of water resides in the glass. Maybe little old Shiloh can teach us all a lesson on how to move on from wanting to be right to do what is right for the good of everyone. T. M. “Mike” Brown
I welcome your feedback. Thank you, and I pray our country will recover long after we move on from the current health crisis we face.