The Missionary

1/12/2009

Kenneth Burchfiel fdHG

 

He gently pried the book open. Hardcover. Leather binding. It was the only type he would buy. Paperbacks never held up well to God’s message.

The man reached off his couch and picked up a glass of wine. A stroke of luck that his blanket was deep purple; if he spilled a drop, it wouldn’t show a thing.

It was his intention to make Sunday nights peaceful. There could be social events the other days; these evening hours belonged to God. He skipped past the introduction and focused on the first page.

“What are we, then, as servants of God? It is simple: we listen for the call of the Holy Spirit, and seek to answer it always.”

A rude knocking sound came from the front door. He rolled his eyes and looked behind the sofa.

“Miranda? Miranda, would you get that?”

Miranda’s chair was empty. She had made a second trip to the wine store.

He shook his head and looked back at the book. This was no time to be outside. If more people kept God’s Sabbath, there would be less grief when he wanted to.

“This is an oft-referenced point among Christians, but what does it add up to? I wrote this book because, all too often, members of Christ forget their call to serve the One who bought them into His kingdom.”

The knocks came back again. Hard, brutish pounds on the door. Obviously not from the neighborhood.

“Before we get into the theological material, however, I would like to address what it means to ‘listen’ for the Holy Spirit. Only the reader can answer that question. God’s Love fills some of us in bursts of revelation, as shown in Acts. Others find themselves with a quiet “Inner Light,” namely, those of the Quaker faith.”

And some found the call interrupted by uncivilized people at the door. He wedged a pillow in between his ear and the seat.

It was about time he trained to become a missionary. The church could use a man of his caliber: responsive; intuitive; apt to new surroundings. His best quality, of course, was how he reached out to people.

“Regardless, everyone who seeks Christ hears the call. That is the easy part. More difficult, of course, is heeding it.”

At the moment, he couldn’t hear any call at all; the knocks at the door were too loud. He picked up the wine glass in between his fingers and swirled the purple substance.

His eyes tripped over the same words. The wine glass vibrated in his hand. There was no escaping the dreadful noise from outside. The man groaned, threw off his blanket and walked over to the front door.

The person at the door looked positively foreign. Unkempt white shirt. Pants too large at the waist and too small at the ankles.

“What was all the knocking for? This is private property.”

The loiterer pulled a small book out of his bag. Paperback.

“I don’t want your reading material, whatever it is. I’ve already got books.”

“Sir, do you know Jesus?”

The man looked at the cover. It showed a gold cross against a back background.

“Oh, trust me, I know Jesus. In fact, I’m training to become a missionary.”

There was a strange smell to him. It was no use for this character to proselytize in this part of town. Better that he preach to the slums.

“Well, I give you God’s blessing. I hope you have a good night.”

The fellow took his Bible bag and left. Before he crossed out of view, the man called:

“And what are you doing, walking around on a Sunday night? This is a day of rest.”

He held the plastic bag with both hands. “I was called.”

 

The door shut, and he the night was his again. He would have to read faster to make up for the lost time.

With the blanket pulled up to his waist, he opened up to page two. At least the font size was large enough. His eyes needed to last into old age.

But as he read, the man found that one sentence blurred into another. His eyes bounced from paragraph from paragraph, sometimes going back, sometimes going further. “Holy Spirit,” “service,” “mission,” “commission”– the words blended into one another, but his mind was focused on the plastic bag and unkempt shirt.

He forced his eyes to continue on, but they kept snapping back to the closed door. His legs were impossible to calm. Wine splashed in the glass he strained to hold onto.

And finally, the man threw off the blanket, set down the book and rushed over to the door.

Pulling it open, he raced out into his yard.

“Wait!”

The sidewalk was empty for as far as he could see. No white shirt stood out in the streetlight.

The man stared down the empty street. And then he began to walk.

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