The American Church

The Man's body jerked with a spasm that rippled visibly across his taut frame. His mouth opened in a soundless cry. Then he bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut.

He was covered in blood, his lacerated flesh lying open in folds from the whipping he'd received before being nailed to this crossbeam.

They stood before him, healthy and well, clothes clean, watching the spectacle. Each held a gift.

"I guess this is the place," said the man in the suit. "I've brought my last fifteen years worth of affairs. Sure was glad I knew this option was here. Don't know how I would have stood the guilt if I hadn't known he would keep taking it." With a self-conscious smile he gingerly climbed the ladder anchored at the foot of the cross and placed his burden on the suffering Man. "Thanks, Jesus. Here's another one from Pastor Jorge. Soon as Dorthy and I are finished, I'll bring you that affair, too."

A woman slipped off her stiletto heels and picked her way to the ladder. Two men helped her up and she was careful not to let the bloody spectacle tarnish her silk dress. "Um, Jesus...well, I guess you know why I'm here. I-I know my choices weren't...weren't the best and all, but I've known You since I was seven and of course you know me. I was baptized and slain in the Spirit, remember?

"So, well, thanks for this and all...Here's my next bundle. I wrapped it really pretty for you this time. My latest abortions are in there, and so is my porn addiction. I really appreciate this. Being a Christian is awesome! Instant forgiveness every time. Wow!" She gave a nervous laugh, clearly eager to get off the ladder. "I'll try to make the bundle smaller next time, you know...if I can..if it's not hard...So, here's one more from Sherry!" She nestled her brightly wrapped gift on the Man's left shoulder and picked her way back to the waiting arms of the men at the bottom.

A burly man heaved his way up the ladder, making the rungs groan. "Yeah, uh, Burton here, Lord." He cleared his throat. "I...I uh put a little extra in the offering plate last week, kind of a little apology for that incident at the casino. Well, you know about that. Here, uh, here's mine. This is from Sandra and me. You know Sandra. We've been livin' together a few years now, not ready for marriage, you understand." He wiped his sweating forehead with the back of his arm. "I really been meaning to clean up my act, you know that. Good intentions count for something now, don't they?"

His laugh assaulted the quiet sky and the Man on the cross let out a soft moan. Burton plunked a lumpy bundle on the Man's outstretched arm and let out a soft curse as blood splashed on his oxford shirt.

He rejoined the small circle at the bottom of the cross. In silence they gazed upon the Man. The woman put a dainty hand to her wrinkled nose and lifted a questioning brow at the men.

"Let's close this wonderful service with a song," suggested Pastor Jorge."How about...'When We All Get to Heaven?"

Burton glanced at his watch. "Sure, Pastor. But can we make it quick? Sandra and I are headed to the game at 2:00."

"Yes, and the girls and I are going out tonight, " said the woman. "Girls' night at the club. Every other drink is free!" She giggled. "I love this church. So many fun people and God wants us to have fun, right?"

They raised their voices in confident song and then, chattering happily about the moving worship service, the Church walked away, down the hill, and back to the world.

A lone man remained rooted in place. Dressed in black, his face was wet with tears as she stared transfixed at the dying Man on the tree. His lips moved and no one but God could hear the desperate whisper: "Oh, Son of God, have mercy on me. My heart is dark, give me light. I give you everything I am. Make me like you. I will not leave this place until I leave it changed from the inside out."

Slowly he removed his black coat, his boots, and everything else until he stood naked before the cross. With sobs, he started up the ladder. At the top, he wrapped his arms around the neck of the dying Man and kicked the ladder away. Together they hung suspended between heaven and earth. Blood covered them both as the man wept on.

A single ray of light fell from heaven and covered them in a warm glow.

For the first time that day, Church had begun.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? God forbid! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?...our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God. I John 3:9-10

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Matt. 7:21

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