8. The Anointing

JESUS_WAS_AN_ALIEN_does_this_look_right_coverIt was still dark outside when I arrived at the church that morning.  I opened the big doors from the inside with the ancient key that was as big and heavy as a gun. 

A gun? 

I moved on, checking doors and windows, turning on the heat to take the dampness out of the air.  It was still early but people would start to arrive in a couple of hours and I wanted to be ready. 

Really?  Who was ever ready for something like this? 

I shook my head.  Keep moving, I told myself.

I turned the lights on in the sanctuary even though it was almost dawn.  The early morning light was struggling to show itself through the dark clouds.  Even the heavens were weeping today.  My mind was numb and my heart cold. 

What was I supposed to say? 

I finished my early morning routine and finally got to my study and sat down heavily in my chair.  I leaned forward, elbows on my desk and ran both hands through my hair.  O God, what do I say?  I was tired and, yes, I was mad.  I might as well face it.  I wasn’t cut out for this life.  The more I learned, the less I understood.  It felt like God was a stranger to me. 

I began to pray.  “Lord, I’m so sorry….”  My voice cracked.  “I really liked him, you know.”  Then I said quietly.  “I almost believed that he was right, that he had something special.”  I took a deep breath.  I was shaken and I was not sure I wanted to go on.  What was I saying?  Give up being a pastor?  I shook my head slowly, hunched over my desk, tears started to run down my nose and fall on the open Bible I had placed there.  I looked down through bleary eyes and straightened up quickly, not wanting to stain my Bible any more than I had. 

I wiped at my eyes and nose with a tissue and looked closer to see what damage I had caused to those thin pages.  The Bible was open at 2 Corinthians 12 and I read the underlined passage at verse 9.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

Well, I could sure use some of God’s power right now and I certainly felt bone-weary and weak.  Then I remembered Peter.  This was his favorite verse.  Maybe that was a good place to start today. 

O Peter, what happened to you? 

I know, I know.  Guns and drugs were a fatal combination.  Still, God allowed it and it was God that I was mad at.  Am I allowed to think that way?  But it was true and that was all my heart could handle at the moment.  I whispered another apology into the air, got up and walked to the window.  It was pouring outside.  Hopefully it would let up before the funeral began at 10 o’clock.

      When the funeral finally started, the church was full of people, somber and serious.  The dark suits and grey dresses lent a sadness to the service that was reflected in the continual downpour outside.  The rain thundered on the roof, drowning out the whispers and small talk of the congregation almost as if God were angry, insisting, demanding to be heard.

         I was surprised at the amount of people who had braved the weather to come to the service.  Standing room only it looked like.  Many of the faces I recognized of course, but there were also many I didn’t.  I sat in the large ornate chair on the stage reserved for the pastor.  There was no choir, no piano player, no instruments.  I had no sermon, just a verse but no outline.  Nothing.

They were all there, waiting while the rain thundered on the roof, the dripping of water from hats, clothes, umbrellas silent in the onslaught of heaven, the puddles pooling like blood on the floor beneath their feet, the humidity almost palpable in the gloomy air of the sanctuary. 

         Then the rain stopped. 

It was sudden and the silence was deafening.  I stood up heavily and walked up the three steps to the large oak pulpit, intricately carved, solid and strong.  It had been the center piece of this spiritual community for seventy five years.  I laid my Bible on the lectern and opened it to the verse I had chosen.        

“Good morning and welcome to all of you to the funeral of Peter Sumner.”  I stopped, not wanting to go on, each word, each phrase a separate and distinct effort.  “As many of you know, Peter was killed two days ago by a young man looking for drug money.  Peter tried to give him the few dollars he had as a gift and told the young man to put away the gun, that he didn’t need it, that Peter would help him.  The gun went off and Peter was killed instantly, shot in the heart.  He was forty two years old.” 

Again I stopped for a long moment. 

“I know,” I said finally,   “because I was there.  Standing right next to him.  I couldn’t do anything.  He died in my arms.  We were going to the soup kitchen.  It was broad daylight.  I couldn’t do anything.”  I was rambling so I shut up.  Now what? 

I looked up.  Not a single person moved.  All eyes were on me but I had nothing left to say.  Then the back door opened and a young man in a grey trench coat came in, hair plastered down his face from the rain.  I couldn’t quite see his features but he looked familiar.  He walked quickly to the corner of the sanctuary and leaned against the wall with the rest of the overflow crowd, slouching, seemingly unaware of the silence and the eyes that were on him. 

         I tried to collect my thoughts.  I looked down at the open casket and the face of Peter at peace among the silk clouds of lining in the coffin.  Somehow flowers had appeared and candles had been lit and a large picture of Peter, smiling that crazy smile of his, was standing on a table beside the body.  Six years.  Six months.  Six minutes.  That’s what it all came down to. 

    What a waste!

         “Peter would have wanted us to be honest,” I heard myself saying.  I hadn’t planned on going in this direction, but, then again, I hadn’t planned on anything.  “The doctor’s would say that I’m still suffering from shock and that’s probably true.  But I have to say that I am seriously considering leaving the pastorate.”  There was a murmur from the congregation.  I held up my hand for silence.  “I’ve written a letter to the Board asking for a three month leave of absence starting immediately and if I still feel the same way in three months, I will officially resign my post as Pastor of this church.”  Again a murmur of protests, louder this time.  Again I held up my hand for silence.  “In all honesty, I don’t expect to be back and this service will probably be my last one with you.” 

I paused, looking at Peter’s body again.  “It’s probably not appropriate for me to make this announcement at Peter’s funeral, but, then again, he’s the one who inspired it.”  I looked down at my hands clasped together, laying on the open Bible in front of me.  “He was always talking about drawing a line in the sand, taking a stand, ready and willing to fight.”   I looked up quickly.  “Not you, not fighting each other, we’ve had enough of that.  No, the fight is within.  Certainly against the Devil and the influence of the world, that’s obvious, but that’s not what he meant.  It was a fight with yourself that Peter was always talking about, with your flesh.  My flesh.  I’m talking about me.” 

I looked down again and a single tear escaped and ran down my face and lost itself somewhere in my mustache.  “I can’t do this anymore,” I said.  I took a deep breath.  “I’m drawing a line in the sand.  No more games.  No more politics.  No more arguments and fighting and division.  No more flesh.  No more arrogance.  No more stupidity.”  My voice had risen and I stopped, shocked at my own vehemence. 

My hand trembled just a bit as I touched the Bible in front of me trying to find the verse.  “2 Corinthians 12 verse 9 says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”  I looked up at the people and swept the room with my eyes.  Then I sighed deeply.  “That’s all I have for you.  It was Peter’s favorite verse.” 

I fumbled with my Bible for a moment, closing it and then, realizing that someone else may need it, I opened it again.  “Well, we’re going to give people a chance to say something or sing a song if you like.  It’s now an open microphone.”  I turned and stumbled down the three steps back to reality.  I looked at the pastoral chair knowing I would never sit there again and then turned away and sat on the front row beside my wife and children.  My wife grabbed my arm as I sat down and then held my hand tightly, fiercely. 

         Nothing happened.

         I hung my head.  I couldn’t even pray. 

There was no family there for Peter.  He was an only child.  His parents had died years ago in a terrible car accident.  Peter was now divorced with a boy and a girl.  I couldn’t remember their names.  It didn’t matter anyhow.  They weren’t there.  They wouldn’t come.  Peter’s ex-wife had said it was shameful to have a church service for someone like Peter and she would have no part in it.  And yet the church was full.  I still didn’t understand it.  I had expected a small funeral and an even smaller burial service.  Something was happening but I was too tired to think about it.  What did it matter anyhow?

         There was some urgent whispering behind me and twelve year old Charlize and her mother, Lisa, got up and went to the front of the church.  Her mother sat at the piano while Charlize struggled with lowering the microphone.  One of the ushers walked over to help her and when she was ready she looked at her mother and then began to sing softly.

 When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well; it is well with my soul.

        Her soft trembling voice became stronger and the piano joined in on the chorus.  It wasn’t entirely on pitch and her voice wasn’t exceptional but no one cared.  It was beautiful.  It was Charlize.  Four months ago they had moved from their big, stately home on Elm Street to a trailer park on the edge of town, trying to recuperate from the tragic suicide of their father and husband, Frank.  Frank had lost everything in an investment scheme with Peter.  They had been partners.  It didn’t matter that Peter had also lost everything, even his wife and kids.  Frank took his life and Peter took a second job to provide for Frank’s family.  Nothing more, you understand, just money and an invitation to come to church.  This was the first time I had seen them come, though everyone knew who they were.

 It is well, it is well.

With my soul, with my soul.

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

       Charlize knew all the words and the tears on her face showed that she meant every one of them.  Everyone knew that she was singing for Peter, and for her own father as well. 

         Before they had even sat down, someone else was up.  It was Conrad Brown, his face hard, his walk full of purpose.  He was the chairman of the Board and an influential member of the community.  He almost leapt up the three steps to the pulpit ignoring the floor microphone.  He leaned forward, elbows on the pulpit and spoke firmly. 

“If we’re going to be honest, let’s be honest,” he said.  “I’m not at all sure that I like the way this service is going.  I came here to give my respects but this is starting to feel like a funeral for a saint instead of a bastard.”  That word hung in the air harshly like an unpleasant aroma but Conrad kept going, trying to cover his brashness with a multitude of words.  “Many of us have lost our shirts in his investment scheme and yet he claims God has spoken to him?  He comes into our church and talks about a new way of being a Christian and gets everyone angry and we start to fight among ourselves.  How Christian is that?  I know some of you think I’m in the wrong for bringing it up but I have to say something.”  He looked down at me.  “Now we’re going to lose our Pastor because of him.  When does it stop?  This can’t be right.  Peter Sumner was a manipulator and a liar and claiming that he was a new person because God spoke to him,” his finger was pounding the pulpit in front of him as he spoke, “doesn’t absolve him of his responsibilities to this community.” 

It all came out in a rush of words that seemed to smother the entire congregation.  Some people, including my wife, were crying softly.  The problem is that it was true.  It was all true.  My wife and I had lost our pension fund and many others in the church had lost even more.  But what difference did it make now?  Peter was gone.  But Conrad wasn’t finished. 

“Don’t forget,” he said, “that Peter claimed to be a Christian before all this talk of God speaking to him.  That’s why we trusted him with our money.”  He stopped, finally a bit embarrassed by his outburst.  “You know what I’m saying.  No one wants to speak ill of the dead but let’s not make him out to be a saint either.”  The final words were less harsh and you could see that Conrad wanted to get off the stage quickly.  And he did.  He gathered up his wife to leave but his teenage son, Mike, refused to go and Conrad and his wife finally disappeared out the back door.  No one wanted to look at them as they left and the silence thickened in the room.  My wife nudged me as if to tell me to do something but I didn’t move.  This was God’s problem, after all.  This was beyond anything that I could handle.  I just waited.

         An elegantly dressed woman of about forty five in full hat, gloves and stylish dress walked up to the front and laid her white gloved hand on the casket for a moment, her back to the congregation.  Then she turned around and spoke into the floor microphone. 

“My name is Susan.  Some of you know me, most do not.  I don’t go to church normally but I flew in from New York this morning to be here.”  She removed her white gloves, pulling on the middle finger of each hand as if to get down to business.  She slapped the gloves into the palm of her hand repeatedly as she talked.  “I lost more money with Peter than all of you put together,” she said.  “But I have it to lose so it’s not so bad.”  She looked around with shrewd, hawk-like eyes.  This was a woman who knew about power and money and was used to getting her own way.

“Peter and I were lovers,” she said. 

“O, Lord…” I whispered quietly.  My wife squeezed my hand. 

This woman seemed to enjoy the shock value of her words and obviously didn’t care a bit that she was in church.  Conrad had obviously started something and I didn’t know where it would all end. 

         “Yes,” the woman said, “this was before his divorce, before the crash, before God spoke to him.”  Then she started to fidget with the gloves in her hands, less harsh, more hesitant.  “I loved him, I guess,” she said.  “At least, I thought I did.  I wanted him and I always get what I want.”  She looked down and then, after a moment, she looked up again and the harsh lines came back.  “I only saw him once after it happened.  He came to beg me for a loan to pay all of you back, to set things right, he said.  I could afford it but I wanted to make sure I got what I wanted too.  He promised everything, but he had nothing to give.  Nothing, except himself, and I was willing to pay any price to get him back, body and soul.  I wanted him to be mine for the rest of his life.”  She paused.  “But he wouldn’t budge.  He was going to try and win his wife back and he said that his God would not be happy with any other arrangement.” 

“Any other arrangement,” she said again.  She was starting to get angry, probably remembering the humiliation of it.  “I offered him a way out.  All he had to do was come back to me.  I just wanted it to go back the way it was but he sold you all out.”  Her voice was loud and shrill now.  She said it again, enunciating every word.  “He sold you all out, for his God.”  The last three words were spoken with scorn and despair.  “I could have solved the whole thing, the legalities, the taxes, the debts.”  She was shaking like a leaf. 

“All he had to do was love me again,” she said quietly now.  Then she paused, looking down at her hands.  It was as if she had made a decision.  She started to jerk her gloves back on in a practiced movement that said the meeting was over, she was done.

But she was not done.  She had one more thing to say, her voice clipped and hard.  “Don’t you get it?  Peter Sumner betrayed you all.  He sold you out for religion.  Now you have nothing, I have nothing and even Peter has nothing.  That’s the kind of man Peter Sumner was.”  She stopped and then added quickly, “God rest his soul.”  She walked over to the casket, leaned over to kiss Peter and then tucked something into the casket beside him.  Probably a last love note.  And she walked down the aisle and out the back of the church.  Back to the lonely reality of her life.

         Then the whispering started and the shuffling and bustling of people as they got up to leave.  Over half of the congregation made their way out of the back of the church in relative silence.  Now I understood why they had come.  They wanted to make sure Peter was really dead, that there would be no repayment, that there was no money, no inheritance, no hope for recovery.  Nothing.  That’s why they came and that’s why they left.

After a while it grew quiet again, many people who had been standing against the walls found places to sit.  I noticed that the callow-faced young man was still there, sitting on the last bench, his trench coat tightly held around him as if to protect himself from the cold, although the church had grown warm and humid.  The sun began to peak through the clouds and I felt a lightness in my spirit.  God was up to something.  I could feel it.

         Then I saw Pastor Mark Campbell, the emeritus Pastor of the church, get up.  He was 82 years old, thin and frail with a high stepping walk that was unsure exactly where to place his feet as he made his way onto the stage and then up the three steps to the pulpit.  He had been the Pastor of this church for over thirty years before I had arrived six years ago to take over.  He had always been a good friend and a strong supporter even when he disagreed with my “new-fangled ways.”  The in-fighting and bickering in the church over the last six months caused by Peter’s attitude and insistence about a new way to live out the Christian life, had almost torn the church apart.  I had talked it all out with Pastor Campbell for hours but it never seemed to lead anywhere.  What would the old saint have to say about all this?  He never wanted to say anything in public before so that it wouldn’t look like he was taking sides.

         “I have never before experienced such a funeral as this,” Pastor Campbell said.  He spoke slowly and clearly, always in true oratory form, every statement a declaration as if from the mountain of God.  I wasn’t exactly sure what he thought about how I was handling things so far.  I guess I was about to find out. 

         “It appears,” said Pastor Campbell, “that Peter is a manipulator and a liar on the one hand and a traitor and adulterer on the other.”  His pauses were always dramatic.  “Good.  I think we have a clear idea of things so far.”  His hand pounded the podium as he almost shouted the next few words.  “Who does he think he is?”  Then a bit quieter.  “Who does Peter Sumner think he is to come in here and stir up trouble, especially after all the things he’s done?  What right does he have to insist on anything when he is so obviously a sinner?  Who is he to sit in judgment on us?  We’ve been doing things a certain way for more than thirty years.  We aren’t going to change now.”  His voice started to trail off, losing its power, as if he had given us the last of his strength.  I knew there were others, like me, who were concerned for his health and were ready to rush to his side if he needed us.  But so far, so good.

         “Yes, who does he think he is?”  For a moment I thought I saw his eyes glisten, but that was impossible.  “Well, I’m here to tell you that Peter Sumner was a child of God.  That’s who he was.  Now don’t get me wrong.  He was Peter Sumner, manipulator, liar, traitor and adulterer but he was also a righteous man just like Jesus Christ in a powerful and rich way.”  He looked around the room.  “These last six months have been the most difficult and meaningful time of my life.  Peter and I have become dear friends.  His testimony and love for God was a beautiful thing to watch and it challenged my own walk with God.” 

His chin started to quiver.  No one had ever seen Pastor Campbell get emotional before.  “Peter always called me the Prophet Samuel because he was jealous, in a good way, of my walk with God.  Samuel, at the end of his life, was able to claim a clear conscience before the whole assembly of Israel because he had never wronged anyone, never taken a bribe and had exercised his authority as a Judge in Israel with integrity.” 

He stopped and coughed into his hand.  “Peter truly wished he could do the same but he knew he couldn’t.  He had no idea how he would ever repay everyone or make things right again.  He realized that he had become a stumbling block to many people, that many people would reject God, reject Christ, because of his bad example.  That was the thing he was most upset about.  He would often say that only Jesus, and the cross, had the right, and privilege, of being a stumbling block to anyone.” 

He took a deep breath.  “At first I was pleased to be compared to the prophet Samuel and I understood his grief at being a stumbling block to others and not able to make restitution.  I encouraged him to confess his sin, repent, ask for forgiveness and seek reconciliation even if he couldn’t make restitution right away.  I told him not to shirk his responsibilities and to continue to promise people that he would do everything in his power to make things right even if it took the rest of his life.  He went and did that, as many of you know, and it got him into even more trouble.  Some of you threatened legal action, some of you threw him out of your houses, some of you wouldn’t even meet with him.  Most of you thought he was just trying to get out of it all by having a jail house conversion.  For myself, I believe he was a Christian before he messed up, but he got caught up in the flesh and arrogance of life and God had to discipline him and humble him and, in the process, God showed him the key to the abundant life and, for Peter, it changed everything.” 

Pastor Campbell was slowing down, obviously tired, but he wasn’t done.  “I have to say, he took it all.  He took everything you threw at him.  He knew he deserved it.  He didn’t actually do anything illegal but that didn’t matter to him.  It was still wrong.  He was more concerned with God’s court than man’s.” 

His face started to twist up as if he was holding back some great emotion and I wasn’t sure he would be able to go on.  Then Pastor Campbell took a deep breath and steadied himself.  “The point is that it wasn’t long before God started to convict me as well.  I could no longer hide behind the façade of righteousness as a Pastor.  I confess today that I, too, am a liar and a manipulator.  I actually got quite good at it.  We call it politics, even in the church, but there was nothing godly about it.  I can’t tell you how many times I stretched the truth, exaggerated or outright lied, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, in order to get what I wanted, though I disguised it as God’s will for the church.”  He paused and then sighed.  “I am disgusted with myself.”

He carefully looked around at the congregation as the confession started to sink in.  But he wasn’t done.  “I have also stolen money from this church a number of times.  Sometimes right out of the offering plate after the service when I saw a fifty or a hundred dollar bill and I happened to need the money.  I justified it, of course, being the Pastor.  Some of it would come to me anyway, sooner or later.  Those were different times, we didn’t have as many checks and balances as we do today, but it was still wrong.” 

He took another deep breath.  “But most importantly, I need to confess that I committed adultery with Molly Hunter, our organist, almost twenty-five years ago.  She has since passed on but my wife knew about it and kept quiet all these years until she, too, went to be with the Lord.  God bless her soul.  But I am no Samuel.  Peter was wrong about me.  There is only one way to be saved from our sin for any of us and that is through the blood of the Lamb of God.  He must take our place.  None of us will make it otherwise.  I put the money back a long time ago but I kept quiet about it.  One sin always seems to lead to another.  But how do I make the lying and the manipulation and the betrayal right?  How do I take back my lies?  How do I undo the hurt that I caused my wife?  Sometimes you can’t make restitution, you can’t put things back the way they were and all you can do is cling to the cross.  That’s what Peter did and that is what I am doing.”  He paused, his dark eyes penetrating.  “Yes, we know what kind of man Peter was and I am here today to tell you that I am the same kind of man.”  With that he was done and one of the elder’s rushed to the pulpit to help him to his seat.

I looked around the sanctuary, trying to gauge the reaction of the congregation.  Some were crying, others were stone-faced, some were even getting up and leaving.  I felt like Gideon with a dwindling army, reduced in numbers but strong in the Lord.  I knew there were battles ahead but God seemed to be separating out the true spiritual warriors from those who were just along for the ride.  I felt light headed and even a bit excited.  God was at work.  Many people may actually leave the church after this.  How would we pay the bills?  Who would be left?  I didn’t care.  Peter had drawn a line in the sand for this church and I knew which side of that line I was on. 

I looked up to see old Mrs. Carmichael make her way up to the front of the church.  Her long, bright red dress with yellow flowers was in sharp contrast to the dark suits and somber attire of the rest of the members.  Betsy was always eccentric.  Her voice had never lost its immigrant accent and she always made people laugh with her boisterous spirit.  Today she was not in a laughing mood.

“I liked Peter,” she said.  “I lost money, too.  I don’t care anymore.  I got greedy and invested money that I couldn’t afford to lose.  I almost went out of my mind when Peter told me that he and Frank had lost everything.  It took a while before I could forgive him but, after that, Peter spent a lot of time with me.”  She stifled a sob and sniffed a bit and then continued.  “Peter wrote a poem for me that I have been keeping in my Bible.  It helps me stay focused on what’s important.”  She looked over at the casket and said quietly, “I’m going to miss you, Peter.” 

Then she wiped her eyes with her sleeve and fumbled with her Bible until she extracted a single sheet of paper and began to read.  “It’s called Created for His Pleasure,” she announced.  “It goes like this.”  She cleared her throat, but then she lowered the paper and said, “I need to say something about this poem first.  I want to explain better why it means so much to me but I’m not sure how.”  She looked down at the floor, her head swaying back and forth as if she was looking for something.  “Maybe the only thing I can say is that it was worth the price, what I learned from Peter.”  She stopped, her eyes wide, her voice more certain.  “It was worth every penny that I lost.  This poem is a glimpse into Peter’s heart.”  With that she lifted the paper again and read the title one more time in her high quavering voice. 

Created for His Pleasure

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Getting rid of all my small ambitions

to make this one thing the hallmark of my life.

To please God.

To give Him pleasure by living on the edge of faith, by risking

everything on His promises and trusting all things,

even life itself, to His providence and care.

To count on His protection

and to pay the price for letting God be God

whether I get what I pray for or not,

whether my circumstances change or not,

whether I am healed or not

and to consider every sacrifice a small price to pay

to obtain the pearl of great price.

His pleasure.

Yes, that was Peter.  That was it exactly.  He had found the pearl of great price and it wasn’t just salvation but something more.  It was the new relationship with God that salvation brings.  The possibility of truly pleasing God and the miracle that you would even want to.  Not for the rewards or benefits, no, just because you want to.  Because of who he is.  That’s what love does.

I looked at my wife and gave her a kiss on her cheek and then smiled at my two daughters.  I got up and went to the floor microphone and looked out at the congregation. 

“Yes,” I said, echoing my earlier thoughts, “That was Peter.  And it’s about time we all started acting like him more.”  Then I made a decision.  It started with me.  If I was going to stay, and now I knew that I would, I would be a different man, a different Pastor and it would start now.  No fear, I told myself.  It isn’t about keeping people happy.  It’s about pursuing God together.

“Peter called it The Anointing,” I said, “this new way of being a Christian.  There’s nothing new about it, of course.  It was new for Peter and it may be new for many of us but only because we have forgotten our first love.  Jesus said that when we are forgiven much, we learn to love much.  That’s what Peter learned.  Do you really think it’s any different for the rest of us?  Who doesn’t have something they are ashamed of?  Who doesn’t have secrets?  And even if you have been fortunate enough to make it this far in life without anything major against you, there are, no doubt, many things you and I have failed to do.  The problem is that most of us are blissfully unaware of how all of our efforts at morality and the good life are nothing but dirty rags before God.  Anything less than a full pursuit of God, an entire giving over of our life to his purposes is not acceptable to Him.  If that’s true, then we have all failed miserably, and we need to be forgiven much.”

I knew that this was raising the bar.  It was a new standard of behavior.  It wasn’t just about being perfect but about being blameless, about getting serious with God, about loving God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength.  No excuses.  No games.

“Peter experienced the discipline of God,” I said.  “The Bible tells us that God disciplines those he loves.  Obviously, he loved Peter.  You might say that it was an expensive lesson and you would be right.  For Peter and for others.  Even for you and me.  I believe that God is inviting all of us to participate in his discipline of Peter and make it also a discipline of love for us.  Perhaps, together with Peter, we can find the key to the abundant life in repentance and forgiveness and learn to live in the power and presence of God together.  That was Peter’s great desire.  The Anointing.  It starts with a complete surrender to God, all secrets brought to the light, confessed and repented of.  It means living a life of transparency and vulnerability, no longer afraid of the light, forgiven and reconciled to God and to one another.  It means to turn away from sin, but even more, to draw near to God, to pursue God actively, continually, to not let go, to struggle with Him until you have his blessing, his anointing.  That was Peter.  He didn’t do it perfectly.  The flesh still caught him by surprise from time to time, but then he would confess it to God and to the person he offended.  Many of you were fed up with his constant confessions of sins for things that didn’t even matter – at least to you.  He knew he couldn’t be perfect but he could be blameless.  He could go back to the cross as often as was necessary.  There was a sweet spot there at the foot of the cross that he tried hard to stay in.  That was his fight.  The fight between living in the flesh and walking in the Spirit.” 

I swallowed hard.  I had gone too far to turn back now. 

“But that isn’t yet the anointing,” I said.  “Or better yet, it’s only the first step.  Now comes the hard part.  Spiritual unity.  Reconciliation.  Psalm 133 tells us that God gives his anointing not just to individuals but more importantly and primarily to the fellowship of believers, from the leaders on down.  Where brothers and sisters dwell together in spiritual unity, Psalm 133 says, God will put his blessing, his anointing, there.  And when that comes, watch out.  God will be among us in power and anything can happen.”  I looked out at the congregation, at all the faces that I knew so well, although there were also strangers there. 

“Look,” I said, “Peter knew that he had no right to speak.  He had no grounds for teaching anyone anything.  The problem is that God had commanded him, and each one of us, to speak and to live out this truth in the context of the fellowship.  It’s hard because people think that if you love God or encourage others to get serious about God that it means that you are super-spiritual or somehow better than everyone else.  Far from it.  The opposite, in fact.  It is because we are great sinners, and we know it, and because we have absolutely nothing to cling to but the cross that we are commanded to speak up.  God chooses the weak and foolish things of the earth to confound the wise.  Peter was foolish but he was no fool.  He often told me that he would rather be in the desert with God than in the Promised Land without Him.  Been there, done that, he would say.”

“I agree.  It’s in the desert, in difficulty, in suffering and pain, and even in death,” – I looked over at Peter lying at peace in his coffin – “even in death,” I repeated, “that God does some of His best work.  He stirs us up.  He makes things difficult when we become too comfortable.  He brings disaster upon us.  He gives us enough rope to hang ourselves.  He turns us over to the power of sin and death to get our attention.  He loves us too much to let us forget that we have absolutely nothing to be proud of, nothing to be confident of, nothing to claim before his throne, except for the cross of Christ.  Sometimes I think that prisoners in jail, men and women on death row, prostitutes and publicans, who have no illusions about how messed up their lives are, who aren’t fooled by appearances or pocketbooks, are closer to the Kingdom of God than we are, even if we are churchgoers.” 

I could see that some of them didn’t like that last comment.  So I decided to press ahead and draw that line in the sand even more clearly. 

“Let’s get real for a moment,” I said.  “Do we really think that coming to church and being generally good people is all God requires?  Do we really think that God’s job is to be our helper through life?  Someone who answers prayers and provides us with the good life?  Do we really think that we can pursue the American Dream with all of our time and effort and just spend a few bucks and an hour or two per week on the Kingdom of God?   Or do we think that God just saves people from hell and then moves on?  That he makes us good, moral people and respectable churchgoers and his job is done?  Really?  That’s naïve and simply not good enough.  God wants it all.” 

I was searching for a way to explain it, to help them see what the abundant life was all about.  “Look,” I said.  “All the best things in life are free, but they still cost you everything.  The love of your wife or husband was free but it is also very expensive.”  I smiled.  “Having a baby is absolutely wonderful, and a free gift from God, but it will cost you everything, including worry and pain and, even suffering, because of love.”  I looked at my daughters.  “That’s the name of the game.  That’s the way love is and God expects no less.  He is more than a husband or wife, more than a child or a friend but he is not less.  He expects our love, our full-time, focused, unabashed, emotional, intellectual and intentional love, even when we don’t feel like it.  Just like marriage.  Just like having children.  Just like a good friendship.  But more.  God wants it all.  And He is the only one who deserves it all, every last bit of our love, because of who he is and because of what he did on the cross for each one of us.”

I sighed deeply. 

“Pastors know that the church is a mixed bag.  Jesus said that there would be both weeds and wheat in the church until he comes back again.  There are, in fact, people here in this very church who are not Christians.  God is not the most important thing in their lives, but they are good churchgoers.  They get involved.  They teach Sunday School.  Maybe they even tithe.  We don’t want to judge anyone but rather encourage everyone to judge themselves by the Word of God.  What is more, some people may be Christians but are living in the flesh and not in the abundant life of the Spirit.  That was true of me for a long time, even as a Pastor.  The flesh is a reality that we all need to deal with but one thing is to fall into a fleshly attitude temporarily and then to deal with it in confession and repentance and another is to have a flesh-friendly lifestyle.  As your Pastor I have to confess that I have not always had the courage to make that clear to all of you.  It isn’t easy.  It is bound to make people uncomfortable and even mad, and they usually get mad at me.”

I smiled weakly. 

“The truth is that I have often just tried to keep the peace, to play politics, or to hide behind my own weaknesses and problems.  Who am I to point out the standard of blamelessness as the key to the abundant life?  Well, now I know who I am.  I am a sinner saved by grace.  A righteous sinner.  I am a child of God.  Forget about being the Pastor, every child of God, including me, must live a blameless life and encourage a blameless life in others so that the fellowship of believers can enjoy the anointing of God.  That is how we fulfill God’s purpose of bringing the lost into the Kingdom of God.  That is what all men crave, to be accepted as they are by grace and encouraged to grow into maturity by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When a church has the anointing, evangelism and discipleship and transformation are the natural results.”  That was it in a nutshell.  What more was there to say?  But I knew I wasn’t quite done yet.

“Don’t get me wrong.” I said.  “I’m not talking about being perfect in every way.  That would be impossible on this side of heaven.  I’m talking about being blameless because every sin is confessed and repented of, restitution is made whenever possible, forgiveness is given even when, and especially when, people don’t deserve it or when they continue to hurt us.  Above all, true reconciliation in Christ is the goal and true spiritual unity the most important thing to this fellowship of believers.  That’s what God expects.  It is always and only about the cross.  The cross is our perfection.  Jesus Christ is our righteousness.”  I could see heads nodding, faces were starting to lighten up, eyes were bright throughout the congregation.  Not everyone of course, but enough to get started with. 

Thank you, Lord

“This is not an easy road by a long shot,” I said.  “Any of you who think it is, think again.  It’s hard because we are all too friendly with our flesh and our flesh doesn’t like anything that is spiritual.  But it is also easy, if we don’t fight God, if we abandon ourselves to his authority and stay focused on Jesus and take his burden onto our shoulders, the burden of love, the burden of the cross, and he will give rest to our souls.  There is a lot more to talk about.  We need to be trained in the ways of the cross, in the ways of love, in the ways of the spirit.  We will fail and we will be restored.  We will be both manipulators and liars on the one hand, in the flesh, and the redeemed of the Lord in the spirit.  The spirit will become a thorn in the flesh, both in your own flesh and in the flesh of others.  We will learn to become intolerant of the flesh in ourselves and cultivate the fruits of the spirit toward others.”

I looked around carefully.  “And we will do it together.  In fact, we can only do it together.  There is no other way.  We simply can’t do it alone.  We were not meant to do it alone.  That is the power of true fellowship and spiritual unity.  But here, today, we draw a line in the sand.  We either stand for God or we do not.  We either commit ourselves to a lifestyle of one hundred percent surrender to God or we do not.  We are either pursuing God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength or we are not.  If we are not, we can confess our weaknesses and repent and he will make us strong.  If we are not willing to live in the shadow of the cross then our salvation is not secure, there is no assurance of faith, or, even worse, we may not be saved at all and perhaps we are not even one of God’s people.  Then we are simply good, moral, churchgoing folk, which may be enough for this life but will get us nothing in the next.  God is not mocked.  What a man sows in this life, he will also reap.  Better that you were hot or cold but because you are lukewarm, he will spit you out of his mouth.”  I looked around at the congregation.  Many eyes were wide, intent.  Others smoldered.  The battle for the heart and soul of the church was in full swing.

“I also commit myself, as your Pastor, to listen more to the Spirit of God then to your complaints.  Constructive criticism in love that encourages us to delve into the Scriptures together to find the truth and discern the will of God is always welcome.  But complaints, no.  In fact, I will start to see your complaints the way that God sees them, as either the stirring up of the Spirit, which gets the flesh riled up, bringing it to the surface so that it can be dealt with at the foot of the cross or as the complaints of unspiritual people who will ultimately die in the desert.  You will either be encouraged to live a blameless life following the way of the cross or you will be told the good news so that you can be saved.  In either case, the dividing line will be clear and the cross will be preached.”

I felt a check in my spirit and I knew that there was one last thing to say.  “A word of warning to all of you,” I said.  “As soon as you start thinking of yourself as something special because you are trying to lead a godly life and a blameless life, you are in the flesh.  As soon as you look at someone else and judge them, you are in the flesh, even if you are right.  A blameless life is a humble life because it remembers its own great sin and rebellion.  He, who has been forgiven much, loves much, both God and man.  How can you judge others when you, yourself, have been forgiven so much?  It isn’t about judgment but about the cross and at the foot of the cross we are all equal.  Even Peter.  There is no one here who is better than Peter Sumner, nor worse.  All of us need the cross.”

I took a deep breath and walked down to place my hand on the casket.  I noticed that the young man who had been sitting on the back bench was now standing in the middle aisle, at the back of the church, his trench coat still tightly held around him, just waiting.  His face was ashen and for a long moment I watched him wondering what he was planning to do.  Then I decided to continue on.

“I believe that what we need to do this morning is to forgive Peter for everything he has done against us.  When we sin, the Spirit of God convicts us of sin and we must respond in confession and repentance.  When we are sinned against, as Peter did to many of us, the power of God helps us and motivates us to forgive each other much because we, ourselves, have been forgiven much. Those are the two sides, the two arms, of the cross.  Repentance and Forgiveness.  Both are rooted in confession and have the goal of bringing about reconciliation.  Time does not heal wounds.  The cross does.  We do not sweep things under the rug but rather bring them into the light.  We are not just peacemakers but reconcilers.  It is the peace of God that matters not just the political, worldly peace which is merely a lack of conflict or confrontation.  Our goal is to have a ministry of reconciliation rooted in the cross in this church, in our marriages, in our lives.”

“We need to forgive Peter,” I said, “not for his sake but for ours.  Whether it was something he said, something he did or just forgiving him for the money that he lost and that he owed us.  Let’s just give it all up to the Lord.  I’m going to ask each of you to get out a piece of paper, any scrap will do, an old bulletin, a bill from your wallet, whatever is handy, and write on it a couple of things that you want to forgive Peter for.  Then we will collect them all and place them in the coffin with Peter and bury them and let them go.  If you need a pen or a pencil, the ushers will have them for you and when you are ready, lift your hand and the ushers will collect your papers.” 

I paused, watching the people get ready and then I raised my hand to get their attention.  “A couple more things,” I said.  “If you plan to forgive Peter for an amount of money, just write that amount on the piece of paper.  If it’s something else, just a word or two is enough.  You don’t have to give a full explanation.” 

Then I felt an urging in my heart that made me think of something else.  “Ok, one last thing,” I said.  “If you want to make a new commitment to God to live a blameless life, to live in that sweet spot at the foot of the cross, just write the word ‘YES’ on the piece of paper.  God will know what it means.” 

I looked around for something to write on and took a pen out of my pocket.  I placed the paper on the communion table and leaned over to write the word ‘YES’ in big bold letters and then the amount of money that my wife and I had lost with Peter’s investment. 

As I straightened up, I inhaled sharply and took a step backward as I realized that someone was standing right in front of me.  It was the young man from the back of the church.  He had a gun in his hand.  He was the one who had shot Peter.  I recognized him now.  My heart was beating wildly but there was anguish on his face.  I waved the ushers back and took a deep breath.  The young man held the gun loosely in his hand but I kept my eyes on his face.  He didn’t say anything but his face looked like he was fighting with his emotions, with his demons, either that, or he was high on drugs. 

Lord, help me

I put my hand on his shoulder and said quietly, “What is it, son?”

“Don’t call me son,” he almost shouted, shrugging my hand off his shoulder.  “You don’t know me.  What’s with you people talking about all that Jesus crap.  There is no forgiveness.  How am I ever going to be forgiven?  Tell me that.”  He pointed at the casket, at Peter, with the gun.  “He’s dead.  He can’t forgive me.” 

Then he slammed the gun down on the communion table and sank to his knees in front of the casket, weeping uncontrollably, saying over and over again, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” 

I knelt down to put my arms carefully, lightly on his shoulders and he immediately buried his head in my neck and hugged me, weeping and sobbing like a little boy.  I could do nothing else but hold him and for a long moment that’s what I did.  Then I lifted his head, placing my hands on both sides of his face and made him look at me.  The pimples on his face, the red splotches of grief, the red rimmed eyes were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  This was the glory of heaven.  The ability of God to bring men to repentance.  In my soul I could imagine the angels starting to sing.

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 Alas, and did my Savior bleed

And did my Sovereign die?

Would he devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?

 “What’s your name?”  I said.

“Cleary, my friends call me Cleary,” he stammered through his tears. 

“Cleary, I’ve got some good news for you.”  

“What?”  He sniffled and wiped at his nose. 

“Stand up,” I said.  “Look at Peter.” 

He stood up and turned his head reluctantly to look at Peter.

“Peter this is Cleary,” I said.  “Cleary this is Peter.”  I turned to the young man.  “Cleary, you need to understand something.  Peter is not dead.  I know he looks dead but he’s not.  He’s alive and he forgives you.” 

The young man looked doubtful but I pressed on.  “Right now, this very moment, there is a celebration going on in heaven because of you.  Peter is truly happy that he could give his life for you if it means that you would come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, just like the rest of us.”  He looked at me intently now, but he was listening. 

 Was it for crimes that I have done

That he groaned upon the tree?

 “It’s God you must talk to now,” I said.  He sniffed and wiped at his nose with his sleeve.  “It’s God who can forgive you because of what Jesus did for you at the cross.”  Now he just looked confused and I felt like I was losing him. 

“Think of it this way,” I said.  “What you did to Peter was horrible, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” he whispered hoarsely.  “It was.”

“You were looking for drug money and your life is pretty messed up right now, isn’t it?” I insisted. 

“Man, you have no idea,” he cried out, the grief almost overwhelming him.

Amazing pity, grace unknown

And love beyond degree

“Stay with me,” I said, holding his arm.  “Look, I’m not going to say that it wasn’t bad.  It was.  You will probably get into a lot of trouble because of what you did.”  Cleary tried to turn away. 

“Look at me, Cleary,” I said firmly.  “You killed a man.  There will be consequences.  You will go to jail.  Maybe worse.”  He was crying profusely again and I hugged him fiercely.  “We’ll be with you through the whole thing.  We will not abandon you.  We are your family now.” 

 It was there, by faith, I received my sight

 Then I pushed him away again at arms length and looked him in the eye.  “The point is that you messed up bad and this is not a light thing.”

“I know, I know,” he said, heaving and gulping with emotion. 

“With God it’s worse than with the police; you realize that, don’t you?”

He nodded.

“God knows all the secrets, Cleary.  He knows all the things you’ve done and the things you should have done.  But most importantly, he knows what kind of person you are.”  I paused.  “You get that, don’t you Cleary?” 

“Yes, sir,” he said.

“When God forgives us, it’s not because he makes light of what we have done.  In fact, you deserve eternal imprisonment in hell.”

Cleary sank to his knees again and started to blubber over and over again, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, God.  Please forgive me.”  I lifted him up and looked him in the face.  “Why?  Why should God forgive you?” 

Cleary grabbed my arms with both his hands and almost shouted, “That’s the whole thing.  There is no good reason.  I can’t think of one damn reason why he should.” 

 Amazing pity, grace unknown

And love beyond degree

He shook me but I held on to him.  “That’s right, Cleary.”  I was smiling through my tears.  “That’s exactly right.  There is no good reason, not for you and not for me.  Not for Peter either,” I said.  I could see that hit the mark.  “You heard what he did.  He was a manipulator and a liar.  He cheated on his wife.  He betrayed this whole community.  He was a loser.  He was a scoundrel.  He was no good.”

“And yet you loved him,” Cleary said.

“Yes, because Jesus loved him and because, in the end, we are all the same.  We all need to be forgiven no matter what we’ve done.”

 It was there, by faith, I received my sight

And now, and now, and now

I am happy all the day, all the day

 “Why would God want to forgive me?”  he asked quietly.  But now I could sense that he was ready, that the Spirit of God had brought him to the foot of the cross.

“Because that’s the kind of God he is.  He loved all of us while we were still losers, still sinners, while we were still far from him, even though our lives were a mess.  He loved us enough to pay the greatest price of all to get us back.”  Now it was time to tell him the rest of the story.

“The greatest price?” Cleary said.

“Yes, forgiving you and me is no cheap trick.  It meant that God would have to send his Son, whom he loved with all his heart, to die on the cross to take our place.  Your punishment doesn’t just go away, Cleary, it was taken over by Jesus, voluntarily, and he suffered hell in your place so that you wouldn’t have to, so that you could be forgiven by God, so that you could have a new life with God, and with God’s family.”

Now Cleary was really listening.  “Jesus took my place?” he asked.  “So I could be forgiven?”

“That’s how important you are to God.  He loves you,” I said.  “Now he wants a new relationship with you.  You can belong to Him if you want to and he will teach you how to have an abundant life with Him.”

“Well, I would like a new start,” Cleary said, taking a deep breath.  “If you think it’s alright, that is.”

“Well, let’s talk to God together.  He’s still waiting for your answer.”

“What answer?” Cleary asked.

“Whether you will accept Jesus as your substitute, as your Savior, and commit yourself to follow him the rest of your life no matter what.”

“Hell, yes,” Cleary exclaimed.  Then he wasimmediately embarrassed.  “S-sorry,” he mumbled.  I just laughed and gave him another hug. 

“Let’s talk to God together, Cleary, right now.  You repeat after me.”

“Ok.”

“Lord God, you know who I am,” I began and then waited for Cleary to repeat the words.  “My name is Cleary.”  I stopped and said, “What’s your last name, Cleary?”

“O’Brien,” he said.  “Cleary O’Brien.”

“Lord God, this is Cleary O’Brien and he wants to talk to you.”  I whispered to him to repeat the next words after me.  “You know my life and you know the mess that I’ve made of it.  Please forgive me.  I know that I may still have to face the consequences of what I’ve done.  I am so sorry that I killed Peter, your son.  Please forgive me.  I am sorry that I used drugs.  I am sorry for a lot of things.  Most of all I am sorry that I have rebelled and sinned against you.  Please forgive me in Jesus´ name.  I accept you, Jesus Christ, as my Savior and Lord and I will follow you all the rest of my days.  In Jesus´ name I pray.  Amen.”

When he was done, I grabbed Cleary in another bear hug and then turned him toward the congregation who broke out in spontaneous clapping and cheering.  Cleary was smiling shyly and fidgeted with his hands. 

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Just as the celebration started to settle down, Mike stood up.  He was the son of Conrad Brown, the chairman of the Board.  He picked up a guitar and began to sing.  I didn’t even know that he could sing.  It was beautiful.  Lisa, the mother of Charlize, stood up and walked quickly to the piano.

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken

I’m accepted, You were condemned

I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me

Because You died and rose again.

 I had my arm around Cleary’s shoulders as we both faced the congregation.  Mike made his way up to the front of the church.  He encouraged the congregation to join in the chorus. 

 Amazing love, how can it be

That You, my King, would die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You

In all I do, I honor You

       “You see, Cleary,” I whispered, “we’ve all been there.  We all need the cross.  He died for all of us.”  Cleary smiled at me while tears coursed down his face but I knew that these were now tears of joy. 

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken

I’m accepted, You were condemned

I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me

Because You died and rose again.

 Amazing love, how can it be

That You, my King, would die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You

In all I do, I honor You

You are my King

You are my King

Jesus, You are my King

You are my King

 I saw Cleary singing the simple chorus with his eyes closed and one hand in the air and the entire fellowship was bound together worshiping in spirit and in truth.  It was then that I realized that the Anointing had come.  God was here and he was pleased. 

Amazing love, how can it be

That You, my King, would die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You

Amazing love, how can it be

That You, my King, would die for me?

Amazing love, I know it’s true

It’s my joy to honor You

In all I do, I honor You

 Finally, the song was over and Mike sat down in the first row.  I wasn’t sure what to do next.  Then one of the ushers handed me a pile of papers and I realized that we were not quite done. 

What a funeral this was turning out to be.

I took a deep breath and said to Cleary.  “You stay right here with me.  You can help me with this.”  I looked down at the papers and saw that Andrew, the head usher, had counted up all of the money that the congregation was going to forgive Peter for.  That wasn’t strictly necessary.  God knew what the numbers were but I noticed it was for an amount just over three million dollars.  That was about twenty percent of what Peter owed judging from my conversations with him.  No matter.  It wasn’t about the money but about the power of forgiveness to bring the anointing presence of God into the life of the church. 

“Cleary,” I said, “I think that you should also have a symbolic way to ask Peter for forgiveness for what you did.  He already forgives you, just as God has forgiven you but maybe you need to have it clear in your own mind.”  I paused, not sure of the legality of what I was about to suggest, but I would worry about that later.  “I think you should take your gun and place it in the casket with Peter.”

“Am I allowed to do that?” Cleary asked.

“Well, it depends.  Are you planning to own up to what you did and turn yourself in to the police?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then there shouldn’t be any problem,” I said.  “Besides, there are a lot of people here who have heard your confession and I am an eyewitness.  So it should be all right.”

“Ok, Pastor John,” he said.  He reached out and took the gun in his hand, looked at it for a long moment, and then said, “You know, this gun sort of represents all of my life up to this point.  I thought it would get me what I wanted but it just brought drugs and death.”  Then he took two quick steps over to the casket and put it carefully on Peter’s lap.  I heard him say softly, “I’m awfully sorry, Mr. Sumner.” Then he turned and sat down in the front row.

I still had the pieces of paper in my hand so I also walked over to the casket and began to pray.  “Lord, please forgive us for our sin.  Teach us the power of confession and repentance as well as the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.  We commit ourselves to living a blameless life and to actively seek your anointing by making our spiritual unity the highest priority in this fellowship.  Today we forgive Peter for everything and anything that he has done against us.  Do not hold it to his account, O Lord.  We let it all go and put it in your hands and forgive him in Jesus’ name.  Amen.” 

And with that I laid the papers on Peter’s chest just above his hands which were clasped together in his final peace.  Then I noticed that odd piece of paper that the strange woman had tucked into the lining beside Peter’s arm.  I thought it was probably a love note.  I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I should remove it, just in case Peter’s ex-wife and family showed up at the burial service later this afternoon after all.  No point in creating an embarrassing situation.  So I took hold of the note and immediately realized that it was a check.  Looking closer I could see it was made out to the church.  My eyes grew wide when I saw the amount and then I quickly grabbed the other sheet of paper with the total amount that the church had forgiven Peter and checked the numbers.  They were the same.  Three million, four hundred and fifty seven thousand, two hundred and seventy six dollars and seventy five cents.  It was the same. 

“Hallelujah!”  I shouted.  “I can’t believe it.  I can’t believe it!”

Questions and concerns rushed at me from all sides but I couldn’t speak.  I was overwhelmed.  One of the ushers, it was Andrew again, rushed over and tried to look at the two pieces of paper,  both of them alternately waving in the air, and then down again, as Andrew tried to read the numbers on them.  “They’re the same!” I cried over and over again.  “Hallelujah!”

Then Andrew also started to yell when he realized that one of the papers was a check and the amount on it.  “They’re the same!  They’re the same!”  he said.  “Three million dollars.  It’s a check.  The amounts are exactly the same.”  As more and more people began to realize what was going on, they came flooding to the front of the church in a joyous celebration of yelling and backslapping and tears. 

It wasn’t the money, you see, although there were many who could surely use it.  It was the anointing.  It was the reality of the presence of God.  He was here.  God was here and he was at work.  He had brought the church to repentance.  He had given Cleary new life.  He was providing for our needs in a beautiful and practical way.  God was pleased and the anointing was starting to flow. 

Hallelujah!  Peter was right.  It’s the anointing that matters, whether in the Desert or the Promised Land.  It doesn’t matter.  That anointing was power, and joy, enough for anyone.  The anointing of God’s pleasure.

It is well, it is well with my soul.

In that moment of joy and celebration in the Spirit, I thought I could hear the angels singing again.  I could have sworn it was Michael, with his sweet tenor voice leading the angelic choir and soaring in his praise to the Majesty on the throne.

And Lord haste the day

When my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll

And the trumpet shall sound

And the Lord shall descend

Even so, it is well  with my soul

It is well,   it is well

With my soul,   with my soul

Oh, It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul.

 Click here to see the Video

English Book Trailer

Presentación del Libro en Español

*****

The Anointing by Bert A. Amsing.  Used with Permission.
Excerpt from Jesus was an Alien (and Other Stories of Faith) by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers.  All rights reserved.
http://www.desertwarrior.net       info@desertwarrior.net
Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.

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