A bell rang loud and long, its peals reverberating from the steeple of a church through the dusty streets of Taos, New Mexico, and echoing across the vast nothingness of desert.
Inside a small adobe structure, parishioners concluded their singing of “Bringing in the Sheaves.” The swish of ladies’ skirts and a rustling of hymnals could be heard as the congregation settled onto benches, preparing their hearts and minds for the delivery of their beloved pastor’s final sermon.
A white-haired clergyman struggled to kneel before the altar, his lips barely moving as he whispered a heartfelt prayer. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, oh Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer. * Amen.”
With difficulty, the elderly man stood and turned to those gathered, scanning the faces of those he had come to know so well. Why, right there in the front row was Tom Benton, now a husband and father, whom he had baptized when young Tom was no more than eight years old. And two rows behind Tom was the Widow Grant, whose husband he had buried just this past winter.
He had laughed with these people, cried with these people, toiled and loved and learned with these people. These were his friends, his family. His flock.
“My friends,” the Reverend Spencer began with a smile. “More than thirty years ago, you humbled me by accepting me into your midst, yes, even despite my many flaws. And for each of those years, Sunday by Sunday, it has been my privilege to stand on this very spot, sharing the Light of the Gospel with you. I have watched you grow in the Lord’s service–feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter the homeless, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned.
“Today, my last day as Pastor of this congregation, I urge you to continue in the Word. Stand strong, encouraging one another in the Faith.
“And I leave you with a word of wisdom once shared with me. A word that impacted the course of my life. A sermon given, not by a man of the cloth, but by a simple man, a man of the world, a people’s philosopher if you will.
“You see, this common man reminded me that our world is filled with evil of every kind, murder, lawlessness, and greed, sickness and hunger. Yet, the Lord has not provided Saints to do His work on earth. For that, brothers and sisters, He needs each and every one of us. Amen.”
(*Psalm 19:14 KJV)
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