Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 32) Episode 4… December 4th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

When Episode 4 of “Gar-SIN-ville” aired on USBN, the entire town sunk into a puddle of melancholy.

The citizens had hoped to be recognized, heard, appreciated and valued, but instead were diminished by carefully edited interviews into creatures of weakness, frailty and in some cases, iniquity.

For instance, it was aired that the Swanson church, while pursuing “the perfect soul mate,” had members who slid into illicit affairs, deep confusion and even domestic violence.

Sammy Collins and his little congregation were characterized as bigots who were actively attempting to prevent the settling of Mexicans into the community.

Perhaps saddest of all was that the Bachman family was brought to tears on camera, discussing the suicide of their son, as Mr. Bachman was captured pleading, “I wish I did believe in God–so I could hate him.”

The community had chosen to be candid and forthcoming, hoping their stories would be welcomed with understanding. But the clever editing of the USBN staff made the town appear to be the most hypocritical community since Salem, Massachusetts burned imaginary witches.

In response, the Holiday Inn Express canceled the contract on Swanson’s church, refusing to let them meet there. The few folks who were coming to Sammy Collins’ house for church were too embarrassed to be seen parking in the driveway. And the Bachmans were bombarded with criticism and evangelistic rhetoric, warning them of a devil’s hell.

To complicate matters, Meningsbee received another visit from USBN. This time they sent their chief counsel, Hector Geminez, to the church office with a threat–veiled as an opportunity.

“We have noticed in all of our dealings in the town that your church could certainly use a kitchen and a pantry, which could be mobilized into a food service for those who are less fortunate in the community,” Hector shared, posing concern.

“We’ve thought of it,” said Meningsbee.

“Well, thoughts don’t feed many people, now, do they?”

Meningsbee paused and then challenged. “What is it you want, sir?”

“Please call me Hector.”

Meningsbee nodded.

Geminez continued. “I have been authorized by USBN to inform you that we have a donation of $25,000 for your church to put together such a kitchen and pantry to aid the community.”

“And why would you do that?” asked Meningsbee.

Hector sat for a long moment, eyeing the reverend. “Listen, pastor. We are both men of the world, even though yours is a bit cloistered. So let me not mislead you. The Garsonville series is doing so well in the ratings that we’re thinking about changing it into a weekly series. Since we have so much footage, we could easily cover a season.”

Meningsbee must have appeared startled, because Hector inserted, “Now, I know this is…ah…displeasing to you, so it was our hope that if you and your church could find a purpose by helping others through this kitchen arrangement, you might be willing to give your backing to such an endeavor.”

“Why do you need my backing?” asked Meningsbee. “The people in this town don’t necessarily like me that well. Why do you think my support will carry any weight?”

Hector suddenly stood to his feet, accentuating the drama. “Oh, but you’re wrong, good Reverend. They may not like you but they respect you.They believe you have insight. We’ve had several people unwilling to cooperate just simply because you placed a fear in their hearts that our intentions are not pure.”

“Well, they aren’t pure,” said Meningsbee.

Hector squinted his eyes. “They are pure in the sense that they represent the truth of the information that’s been provided to us. The public has a right to know what goes on in communities like Garsonville.”

“No, they don’t,” said Meningsbee. “None of us have the damn right to stick our noses in anybody else’s business. And by the way, you can quote me on that, Hector.”

“Well, they told me you might not be cooperative,” Hector said, easing himself back down in the chair. “So I wanted to let you know that we have data about some of your personal dealings–or shall we say, problems?–that might be intriguing to the people of the town.”

Meningsbee smiled. So it was USBN that had stolen his computer, to copy his browser.

He paused, wanting to make sure that his reaction came from a quiet place in his soul instead of the fury of his rage. He waited so long that Hector decided to continue.

“Now, we’re not threatening you. And we really don’t want to use what we have. God knows we all have a private life, right, Richard? What we want to do is make this arrangement to everybody’s mutual benefit. You get a food pantry to help the poor and we get a season of highly rated television programs that enlighten the American public.”

“So you feel you’re enlightening the American public,” barked Meningsbee.

“Well, it does say in the Good Book that the truth will make you free,” cited Hector.

“My dear friend, you have no idea what that verse means. Truth is a beautiful thing when it is revealed by the person with the secret. But truth is a nasty monster when it’s disclosed by strangers, leaving the exposed person condemned.”

Hector stood again and walked to the door, turning as he put his hand on the knob. “Listen, I didn’t come here to have a theological discussion. I’m an attorney. I deal with legal ramifications. We don’t need your blessing to do anything. We don’t need your permission to expose you. We were just providing a courtesy–to you, your congregation and the community–which might create a general welfare for all parties involved.”

He concluded, “I know you’ve heard the phrase seventy-two hours. In case you don’t know, that means three days. If I don’t hear from you in three days, I think you can assume that your predilections will be included in the format of Episode 5. You can have a kitchen–or be dealt a heaping helping of humiliation. It’s up to you. Nice meeting you, by the way.”

Hector Geminez turned the knob, opened the door, walked through and disappeared.

Meningsbee felt like chasing him down and giving him a good piece of his mind, but thought better of it.

He realized that he would probably need all of his brain to figure out what to do next.

 

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Seek a Salem … July 16, 2012

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Seven Mile Ferry — a well-traveled path with, I’m sure, a tale to be told. Yet I was not in the mood for the ramblings of some roadway. I had come to share, and hopefully to be shared with, by some of God’s good folk. My destination was Salem.

The word has two meanings for me. First, “Salem,” from the Hebrew, means peace. Of course, any good reader who has spent any time in the gospels will tell you there’s really no such thing as an actual location for peace. Matter of fact, there’s a warning that those who pursue such a utopia will often find “sudden destruction”–or a “sword.”  No, the Good Book tells us that peace requires a maker.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Which, by the way, is a far cry better than being referred to as the “Brats of Beelzebub…”)

The second image that pops into my mind when I think of “Salem” is the town in Massachusetts, which for one reason or another, decided to begin looking on its young lasses as witches. Although we might be tempted, after an evening of perusing reality television, to sympathize with these forefathers, it’s rather doubtful that any of these characters are possessed with much more than themselves. Yes, Salem, Massachusetts, went on a witch hunt–and even though the conclusions were rather dubious, there was an awful lot at stake, so they went ahead a burned a bunch of ’em anyway.

So I was curious, upon arriving at this new sanctuary of possibility, which Salem lay before me. Would it be a building filled with peace-makers or those who are just making pieces out of everything, breaking their world apart into black and white?

The difference is really quite simple. Those who have decided to make peace always arrive in life with anticipation. They have discovered the key to making the human journey pleasant and plausible lies in determining that God is ready to bless instead of curse or ignore. If you really believe that we have all fallen so short of the glory of God that He’s basically abandoned the human part of His creative mission and is searching for the nearest whack to destroy us, then you will find it very difficult to want to make peace. You will also find it unnecessary to have “ears to hear”–because one of the true signs of a peace-maker is that he or she has taken their anticipation and has put on ears because they believe there are blessings to be had.

On the other hand, those who make pieces out of life, looking to fragment everything into its parts for careful scrutiny, always lead with suspicion. Let’s be honest–if you’re convinced the world is evil and God is doing battle with iniquity, then the only conclusion you could possibly come to is that most people you meet are flirting with darkness, and it is your duty to expose their bleakness and proclaim them to be transgressors so as to do the will of God and protect yourself from destruction. It is a fascinating fact that those who have suspicion crawling up their spines only have ears to fear. It doesn’t matter what you tell them–they will translate it into some sort of horror or pending doom.

So you can imagine–I was curious upon arriving at this beautiful, well-constructed, country church, whether I would find Salem, the peace makers, or Salem, occupied by those trying to make pieces out of something truly holy.

Walking into the building, I was greeted. That’s always a good sign. A hand should always come our way before a stare. At least that’s my opinion. I was engulfed by a sea of hands, and proclamations from people’s lips that they had been looking forward to what God was going to be doing. The comical part of the preamble to the service was that these delightful human beings were so anxious to communicate their excitement that I got prayed for three times. Usually, in a United Methodist Church, if you get one prayer, you are fortunate. But I got a triple anointing. So that put a giddiness in my heart–that the message my Father gave to me to share with my brothers and sisters was actually going to be heard instead of being criticized by those wanting to find something absurd. Because as I told you, when there’s anticipation in the room, there are ears to hear. And as Jesus said, “when people have ears to hear, let them hear.”

Salem United Methodist Church has discovered a great truth–God doesn’t bless us. Blessing is everywhere and we either arrive to receive it or we stand firm in our stubbornness, to reject it. It really comes down to one question–is peace in my control? Or in the control of God and the devil?

If you think that the heavens or hell are manipulating what happens next in your life, you will very suspicious and have ears to fear. But if you know that we are the peace makers, the children of God, then you will show up in life with anticipation, with ears to hear. Ears to hear? Or ears to fear? It’s the difference between finding God or fearing life.

I had a beautiful morning. People were touched and likewise with me. But it all revolved around the fact that this little chapel out on Seven Mile Ferry Road decided to be filled with anticipation instead of suspicion. They made a decision not to hunt for the witch, but to be a congregation which hunts … for peace.

   

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