continued from A True Story – part 2
A True Story – part 3
I bought my own Bible and began soaking it up and that very next Sunday I walked into the Nazarene Church thinking how weird, or out of place, I felt. After all, I hadn’t been inside a church since I was a teenager (20 years).
The service hadn’t started yet and I was thankful for that because everyone was busy talking, and only a few took notice of me as I slid into the very back pew. They nodded to me and smiled and I nodded back and they went on about their business.
I did look around in an attempt to find Jeremy or Christopher but I didn’t see them. There was an elderly and very refined looking lady sitting at the organ and, when she began to play, everyone sat down and the room became quiet. That’s when I noticed the guy in the suit come out through a door up on the inside of the altar rail. He walked over and took a seat and I thought, that guy looks familiar.
A young lady went up to the pulpit, picked up a mic, and sang a song I was faintly familiar with (In the Garden), and man, she sounded like an angel. I gotta tell you, it was beautiful. She and her husband and I became good friends later on, and we even sang together a few times.
After she finished, some guy prayed and they passed the plates for the offering. I didn’t want to feel guilty so I slipped in a few bucks. And then that guy in the suit walked up to the pulpit and, as soon as he started talking, I knew where I had seen him before.
A friend of mine kept several horses boarded in the local stable and he allowed me to ride with him now and then. And that’s where I had seen that guy before. He was a farrier. I had seen him at the stables shoeing horses. I remember Ernie pointing him out one day and saying, “That dude over there is a local preacher.” Hell, I thought he was kidding.
But, I’ll tell you what; I will never forget that first sermon. It was kind of strange but it sure made an impression on me. He said, “I want to talk to you about two men who worked side by side; now I know you have all heard about Peter and Paul. And I know that you have all heard of James and John, and I believe you have all probably heard of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.”
Well, like I said earlier, I had never read a bible until just a few days ago but I was pretty sure it did not have stories of the Lone Ranger and Tonto so he got my attention. And, for the next 30 minutes, that preacher used the Lone Ranger and Tonto as an illustration of how we all should learn to get along together.
I’m not going to try and recall all of it here but, I’m sure you get the idea. And he was speaking especially to people who called themselves Christians.
The way it all ended that morning bothered me some. I had never in my lifetime heard the term “Altar Call” so I had no idea what was going on. The preacher said something about praying for anyone who wanted to come forward and I saw two or three people walk up there. They knelt down and the preacher stood in front of them and was talking so softly to them that I couldn’t understand any of it.
Then, he suddenly looked up and asked others to join them and, I swear, nearly everybody in there went up. I could see several of them laying their hands on the shoulders of those three people and all of a sudden; (man it brought a chill up my spine); somebody up there started crying and I don’t mean quietly. He or she was wailing. That’s when I got up quietly and left.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That’s Galatians 3:28. I don’t remember if Gene (that’s the Nazarene preacher) used that particular verse that day way back then but it’s the one I use. We are all equal in the eyes of God if we have accepted the truth of the Bible and call Jesus Lord.
So I went back on Wednesday evening and to my horror, there weren’t as many people as there was on Sunday. There was less than 150 on Sunday and there was way short of a hundred on Wednesday. And it wasn’t a formal meeting like it was on Sunday; it was more like a Bible study; and everyone sat close together, and all toward the front. And Gene stood in the aisle instead of back behind the rail, so I stood out like a sore thumb.
And sure enough, the preacher asked me to introduce myself. I did not want to stand up and be noticed. I am not what you would call a shy person but I am a private person (or at least I used to be), and it used to be very difficult for me to do certain things in a crowd of people I don’t know. Like, for instance, stand up like a bumbling idiot and introduce myself. So, I did; and I was glad I did because everything seemed to change at that moment.
When they all found out I was a policeman (thanks to Jeremy), and they all discovered that I was thee policeman who had recently been bombarded in the newspaper, I suddenly had a room full of friends. They all had something to say about “that preacher” and they all agreed that no good, Spirit-filled preacher would ever condemn a man like me in public like that without knowing all the circumstances. And I promised that I would tell them all about it sooner or later. And I’ll tell ya’ll about it; sooner or later.
But right now, I need to go on with what happened between me and what I began to refer to as “my church.”
I returned the very next Sunday and was once more intrigued by Gene’s method of getting his message across. He started out this way: “I know that several of you read your Bible on a daily basis; and I am sure that most of you read it at least once or twice a week. But I want to talk to you today about a fellow you won’t find in the Bible; a fellow named Jack.”
OH no, you don’t, I thought to myself, what are you up to? But, even though I was a little confused at what he said, I also sighed with great relief when I realized he wasn’t talking about me. He began: “little Jack Horner sat in a corner….” And he went on and finished the whole thing. People were laughing all over the room and I even thought it was funny but, again, he used this silly story to make a point.
His point was this. Jack Horner had found a plum in his pie and he kept it all to himself; just like a lot of Christians have a habit of not telling people about Jesus. And that is exactly what we are supposed to do. We have a mandate from Jesus Christ himself in Matthew and we all know it as The Great Commission. It’s found in Matthew 28:19. And it’s very plain and easy to understand…”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”
And it’s even clearer, I think, in Second Corinthians 5:19-20…”he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
As he was making his way through his message, I couldn’t help thinking of Jim. That’s exactly what he was doing in the front seat of our patrol vehicle, and that is exactly why I was seated in this church on this Sunday morning. Jim was in the process of making me a disciple; he was acting as an ambassador for God.
And that is exactly what I am doing now. And that is exactly what I meant back when I said God had instructed me to do this. So, please read on.
I went back the following Wednesday, the following Sunday, and then again the next Wednesday. Something was happening to me but I wasn’t sure what it was except I couldn’t get enough of the Bible or the church. Those people were something else; always hugging and smiling.
On the third Sunday I went to the service even though I was on duty. At the close of his message, the preacher invited anyone who wished to make a new life for themselves in Jesus Christ, they could come forward and he would pray with them.
I felt something inside me nagging me to go up there but I sat still and argued with myself. In the past few weeks I had seen several people go up there and, before you knew it, they were all bawling like babies. I’m in uniform; I’m not going up there and cry like some big baby. I had secured my gun in the trunk of my patrol car, but I was still in uniform.
I stood my ground; I wasn’t moving. The preacher said, “I’m going to close this service in just a minute but I know the Spirit is tugging at somebody’s heart.” Then he added, “Today is the day of your salvation.”
And I thought, holy cow, can he see me from there? Is he talking about me? And believe me when I say this my friends… I do not remember walking up that aisle. What I do recall so vividly is kneeling in front of the preacher; confessing to God thirty-three years of sin. People’s hands were on my head and my shoulders; and I was wailing. I had repeated the prayer as Gene led me; I had confessed that I was a terrible sinner and needed God’s forgiveness. And I said in a loud voice, “I want Jesus in my life.” And I cried, and cried and I didn’t care who saw me. I felt good; I felt relief and I felt good.
And when I stood up, that little lady, who played the organ, took my hand into her dainty little hands and said, “Welcome home, son.” And my knees got so weak I thought for sure I would fall down. But what I did was start crying all over again.
But I had to go back on duty, so I had to pull myself together. About an hour later I pulled into the police yard and there stood Jim. He had been assigned with another patrolman about a week earlier and I hadn’t seen him since then. When I got out of the car he must have noticed the change in me because he smiled, stretched out his arms for a hug and said, “You did it, didn’t you?” And we embraced; we were now brothers in the family of God.
And one of the first things I did when I got off duty that Sunday was go to the phone and call my sister in Arizona. And less than two years later she had me convinced that I needed to move out there. And that’s where the rest of my stories will continue.
God bless ya’ll
be sure and come back
Jack C. Corcoran