Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 24) The Unbroken Circle … October 9th, 2016

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(3089)

Reverend Meningsbee

It was Meningsbee’s style to arrive at the Garsonville church mere moments before the service was set to begin.

He chose this profile not because he had a flair for dramatics or wanted to bring attention to himself, but rather, desired to communicate that he was arriving with the congregation instead of waiting to greet them.

But a phone call from a very confused deacon, Mack Robbins, had summoned him immediately to the church because of “strange doings.”

Now, the term “strange doings” in a small Nebraska town could range from a fourteen-cent hike on the price of gasoline at the local pumps to somebody wanting to show off a two-by-four that had stuck itself in a tree during a tornado years ago.

But in this case, Deacon Mack was very concerned because fifteen young people from the high school had arrived at the church early with candles in hand and had slowly marched to the front of the sanctuary, sat down lotus style in the front, lit their candles and quietly hummed some unknown tune. (Mack did not recognize the melody, but felt it was not a common hymn.)

Those who were arriving for normal church did not know exactly what to do. Should they be seated? Should they ask the young people what they were up to? Or should they freak out, call their minister and plop the problem on him?

Being good religious folks, they chose the latter.

So when Meningsbee arrived, he saw his entire congregation standing in the vestibule, peering through the partially frosted windows, staring at the circle of adolescent candle-bearers. Collectively, his sheep turned to him, looking for direction from the shepherd.

He whispered, “Why don’t we just go sit down?”

Everyone nodded as if they had heard wisdom from the great King Solomon.

The ninety-five people tiptoed their way into the sanctuary, found seating places and then waited for the Reverend to take care of the bizarre predicament.

Meningsbee perched himself near the front, crossed his legs and then, as if he had sat on a cactus, leaped to his feet, stepped up onto the altar, found a candle, lit it and eased onto the floor with the students.

This was very baffling to the Nebraskans. Was the parson suggesting they do the same? Many of them had not been that close to the floor since the last time they fell and couldn’t get up. So they chose to sit quietly and see where the odd escapade would head.

After a few moments, the youngsters stopped their singing. When they did, Meningsbee took the opportunity to do a little singing himself.

“Michael row the boat ashore, alleluia…”

Meningsbee glanced at the congregation, encouraging them with his eyes to sing along. Some did.

The students listened through one or two passages, and then joined in to the best of their ability. When the song was done there was a moment of silence. Meningsbee spoke.

“It is very important for all of us to return to the last place we sensed something good. Although our questions will never be answered in full, we should remain full of questions. I want to thank you for coming today and giving us the soul of our service. It was Jesus who said that we are the light of the world. You have brought light into our presence. It was David who told us to sing a new song. You have brought us a new song. And it is every intelligent teacher and prophet throughout history who tells us to challenge ourselves. You have sat here, humbly offering your gratitude and expressing your desires. We welcome you. You have made our church today. You are our church today. We thank you. And we want you to know that you’re welcome here anytime–to bring anything you feel–to help us understand the depth of your soul and what’s important to you.”

One of the young men from the circle of visitors spoke up.

“We didn’t mean to interrupt. We thought you would just go ahead and have your service.”

Meningsbee replied, “You see, son, that’s the mistake we make in the church. We think you’re supposed to come in here, learn about what we do, follow the routine and develop a taste for it. That’s not really what church was meant to be. Church is the people coming, expressing what they need, and letting the opportunity of being with God supply it. Don’t ever forget that. And when you come back here again, it’ll be the same way. We don’t exactly have an order of service. We let the service that needs to be provided grant us order.”

The unbroken circle of young folks nodded in approval. The congregation smiled as some cried.

If church was supposed to be a series of beautiful moments of human interaction and revelation, then Garsonville was slowly on its way to becoming a church.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 20) Twenty-One Steps … September 11th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3061)

Reverend Meningsbee

Sunday morning in Nebraska was a living and breathing confirmation of the wisdom of the Creator God–to set aside a day of rest.

With nothing to do but prepare homemade waffles, walk the dog and dress for church, the citizens of Garsonville breathed a collective sigh of relaxation and relief. For just a little while, life became slower, and the craziness of the 21st century was mollified by simplicity.

That morning, Meningsbee barely got seven steps into the door of the church before Matrisse grabbed his arm and pulled him down to whisper in his ear.

“Kitty is gone.”

He pulled back so he could look into her eyes. She just sadly shook her head.

Realizing he couldn’t stop to converse any more, he made his way toward the sanctuary, where after a few feet he was nudged to the side by Bob Harborhouse, one of the original church members on the pastor’s selection committee. He was also one of the people who left over the fearful prospect of sitting closer to the front of the church. Meningsbee remembered that during his trial sermon, Bob introduced himself as a “groomsman carpenter,” explaining that by day he took care of a stable of horses and at night, he was in the first stages of starting his own furniture company–all original designs.

Bob said to Meningsbee, “I’m back with my family and about ten other people from the old church, but I do want you to know that Sammy Collins has begun his own congregation with about fifteen individuals who are meeting this morning at his house.”

Trying very hard to disguise his disappointment, Meningsbee nodded and headed into the sanctuary. Right before entering the holy of holies, he was once again stopped, this time by Theresa, the volunteer church secretary. She explained that someone had vandalized the women’s bathroom. It appeared that the scoundrel had poured two bags of marshmallows down the toilet.

Having no immediate clever come-back, Meningsbee nodded and told her he would make the announcement.

So as he inched his way up the middle aisle to the front of the church, looking at what was really a pretty good attendance, he wondered what conversation in his first twenty-one steps into the house of God could be addressed.

But before he could get started, Mark Layton, a former member of the church and also a history teacher at the local middle school, stood to his feet, firing a challenge.

“Reverend Meningsbee, I know you think you know what you’re doing, but before you came to our town, we were just a small country church with gentle ways and hopes for better lives for our families. Since you’ve been here, we’ve had division–and now there are three congregations meeting where once there was just a single body of believers. Do you really think that division is the work of God?”

There was some hissing and booing from the other members, who had come to church for a more enlightened experience, but Meningsbee quickly silenced the naysayers.

“Mark,” Meningsbee said, “When I was a young boy, my mother bought a brand new vacuum cleaner. It was quite a contraption. It had all sorts of shiny, silver metal pipes that came with it. They were extensions, so she could do various things to sweep up corners and such. I was only six years old, so I took one of those shiny metal pipes and quickly discovered that it was the perfect size for me to take a ping-pong ball, stick it inside and place my mouth over the end of the tube, and blow out really hard, and pretend I had a dart gun.”

The congregation laughed.

“It was great fun,” Meningsbee continued. “Then one day I picked up one of my ping-pong balls and it felt a little funny in my hand, like it was bigger. You know what I mean? But I tried to put it inside that metal tube anyway. It barely fit. But the worst part of it was, I couldn’t blow it out. Now, I probably should have told my mom or dad that I messed up one of the metal pipes on the new vacuum cleaner, but I was scared. Being a kid, I just hoped it would work out. It didn’t. And later, when my mother tried to sweep the floor, the machine didn’t work because of my little ping-pong ball mistake. They took it to the repair shop and received a gloomy report. Because the metal tube I had put my ping-pong ball in happened to be attached to the engine of the sweeper–and without that tube, well, the whole mechanism was basically useless. But the repair man was able to tell them that there was a ping-pong ball in there that he couldn’t get out unless he cut the tube in half. Well it didn’t take my parents too long to figure out where the ping-pong ball might have found its origins. They took me to the side and asked me why I didn’t tell them that I had made a mistake. I looked at them with tears in my eyes and said, ‘I just wanted everything to be all right, the way it was.’ You see, Mark, it wasn’t all right. It still looked like a vacuum cleaner but it didn’t work. Something was stuffed up inside, blocking the suction. When I arrived at this church, you had all the right equipment, seating, and even pretty good doughnut choices for the after-glow service.”

More giggles.

“But it wasn’t a church. Maybe it was a club. Maybe it was a way to escape and pretend we were better than the world around us. You can make up your mind on that. But the Book of Hebrews tells us that a church is a place where we come to strengthen one another. Not just praise or worship or gather to sing or say all the right words. So here’s my opinion: if we have to disrupt the eighty-eight souls who came to this church to try to reach the thirteen hundred who never have, then so be it. In my mind’s eye, it’s a small price to pay. So Mark, you are welcome to join us in worship this morning, or please–do not feel condemned or criticized if you would like to leave now that your question has been answered.”

There was a moment of silence. The people were absolutely still. At length, a softer, more tender Mark Layton piped up.

“I’m listening.”

Church continued.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 1) … May 1st, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2921)

Reverend Meningsbee

There had been no national spotlight on the little town of Garsonville, Nebraska, since a bumper crop brought in some news coverage to report that a local grocer was selling golden sweet corn for a penny an ear.

That was thirty-two years ago.

The little town continued to grow corn but never was able to offer it again at such a reasonable rate.

Now all of a sudden there was a new interest in the community because the author, Dr. Frederick Meningsbee, had accepted a calling to be the minister at the Garsonville Community Church. At one time the church had 175 people in attendance each Sunday, which was not too bad for a town of 1,423 souls. But a combination of inadequate pastors and growing apathy had trimmed the ranks down to a solid 83 individuals who continued to attend–some out of persistence and others because long ago, they signed the loan for the property.

No one quite knew why the good doctor from an eastern university was taking such a lowly position in Garsonville.

Meningsbee had gained some attention of late, penning a volume entitled “The Jesus Church.”

Not a single soul from the pastor-selecting-committee had read the book, but figured that because the title included the words “Jesus” and “Church,” it must be divinely acceptable.

So on Dr. Frederick’s first Sunday, 143 people showed up, along with a couple of national bloggers,who were hoping to make a name for themselves by covering the story.

After a couple of hymns were sung and prayers uttered, Meningsbee rose to his feet and said, “This shall be a very short service–basically just an opportunity for me to tell you that when you arrive next Sunday, you will be handed a bulletin, which I am sure you are accustomed to. At the top will be instructions on the procedures and approaches for that day’s service.”

After finishing this short statement, the new preacher closed in prayer and the service was over.

Everyone left the church to head home and wait for their chicken, dressing and ‘taters to finish baking.

It was an unusual beginning but no one was suspicious of what might be unfolding in the future.

For after all … only Reverend Frederick Meningsbee knew the plan.

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