Passing the Faith Along – Part 1

Passing the Faith Along

by: S.C. Mathisen

 

We get to go to spend a whole month this summer with Gram Susie & Grampa Johnny! In Millville? Wow! That’s great mom & dad!” Susie was so excited that her entire face lit up and she grinned her widest grin as the family finished their dinner one evening in late June. Her father, Pastor Tom Johnson, responded, “We thought that it would be a good time for a visit since we have that pastor’s conference in Chicago in July and then we’ll come back to the farm for a month while I work on my book.”

While Susie began to discuss with her mother what clothes she should bring on the trip, since it was only a week away, Stanley began to ask his father what Millville was like. He could not remember much about it. He had only been there once and that was when he very little. At the same time, he started trying to finish his dinner in big gulps. After trying to swallow a particularly big bite, he began to hiccup. “Whoa, there sport,” his father said, scooting his chair over closer to his young son. He put his hand on his back and offered him some water. “Here drink this water Stanley, it should help to get that big bite down and stop your hiccups.” Stanley took the glass and slowly began to drink it. After a couple of swallows, he handed it back to his dad, leaned back in his chair and took a couple of deep breaths. “Hiccup,” he went again. His father smiled at his son and said, “maybe we’ll just sit still here for a couple of minutes and wait for this to pass.”

Susie and Mrs. Johnson, still talking about what to pack for the trip, rose and began clearing away the dinner dishes and putting them into the dishwasher.

That evening Susie called her friend Andrea, “I’m so excited that we get to go to Millville. You’d love it there, I wish that you could come too. It’s where my grandparents both grew up in the Midwest, near the Canadian border. There are lots of lakes and trees there and my grandparents have a small farm. We’ll be able to help out with the farm animals and other chores around the farm. And, you’d just love my Gram Susie and Grampa Johnny. They are some of the neatest Christians you’ll ever get to meet. They were missionaries in Africa for the longest time and when they retired from Africa they moved back to my great-grandparents farm in Millville. We’re gonna have so much fun!” “I think you will too, Susie. I’ve never been to a real live farm” said Andrea. Susie said quickly, “Do you know what I want to learn? I want to learn how to milk a cow and collect eggs and…and…well, I don’t know, just everything!” Andrea laughed and said, “Yeah, it all sounds so exciting. I wish that I could go with you too, but my Mom & I are planning a trip to the ocean while you are gone. That will be fun too.”

The day of the trip to Millville arrived and found the Johnson family boarding the train at the Crescent City train station, getting settled into their compartment and watching the scenery pass by. Pastor Johnson kept Stanley busy with walking tours of the train. There was even a car with a playroom that Stanley could play in while his father enjoyed being able to sit for a minute. That evening they had a marvelous meal in the dining car and then settled snugly into their bunks to sleep while the train rolled on toward Millville.

The next morning, after breakfast, there was plenty of time for reading, sightseeing on the train and watching the scenery change.

After lunch, Susie went up to sit up in the observation car and look out the window at the hilly pastures dotted with cows and horses rolling by. She was wondering what it would be like to be on one of those farms when someone sat down in the seat opposite her. It was a girl that didn’t look much older than her and Andrea but, something was different about her. She seemed kind of lonely. Susie wondered what to say to her.

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The Unforgiving Servant – Conclusion

Johnny’s head was not sure now if he was coming or going. This was all too strange and an awful lot like that Bible story that he read before bed last night. He had to think.

But Jimmy interrupted his attempt at figuring this all out, “Come, brother” he said, “it is time that we go to our duties for the day.”

Johnny followed Jimmy down a long steep stairway, out of the building, along a walkway that seemed to be wedged in between a stable and a long series of workshops. They walked for quite awhile and Johnny could see that most of the men and boys were dressed much the same as he and Jimmy were. He saw no women or girls. Finally, Jimmy turned into a building that was very large on the inside. In fact, it seemed to be larger on the inside than it was on the outside. That was a very curious feature.

Inside this building were tall stacks of grain and other types of food. This was the King’s warehouse where he kept all of his supplies and trade goods. Jimmy took Johnny over to one wall where many tools were kept.

“Jonathan, take up your broom and begin your daily duties. Today we sweep the floors.” Jimmy said as he grabbed a broom and began walking toward the sacks of barley and oats.

Johnny heard two men arguing in the next aisle way. One was saying to the other, “You owe me and you had better pay me or I will have you thrown in prison and your goods sold. That will get me my money.”

The other man pleaded “Please do not do this, I beg of you. I have a wife and a daughter and a son. Who will care for them?”

“Hah, I will take them as my slaves that will complete the payment! I will call the kings guards right away.”

As Johnny walked past the aisle where the two men were arguing, he recognized the one that was threatening the other as the one that the King had pardoned just before his audience with the king. The other one (the one with the daughter and son) looked a lot Pastor Johnson, Susie’s dad. “Oh, this is getting really creepy now,” he thought to himself.

The man who had been pardoned by the King (and who was also the master of the storehouse), had the other man taken to prison and ordered the Kings guards to confiscate his property and to deliver the man’s family to his estate as slaves. He laughed as the man was being taken away still begging and pleading for mercy.

About midday, when they stopped to rest and have some water and bread, there was a commotion over where the master of the storehouse sat. It seems that the King had heard about what he had done and sent his guards to bring him back to see the king. Johnny decided to follow at a safe distance. He followed them along the walkway that led past all of the shops and the stable, up the stairway and down the long hallway with all of the tapestries that led into the great hall where the King and Queen sat.

The King was furious, he yelled at the master of the storehouse, “You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”

The King then turned that wicked, unforgiving master of the storehouse over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay back his debt.

Johnny was stunned. He ran back to the storehouse as quickly as his legs could carry him. He looked for Jimmy to tell him what had happened and told the story in quick bursts as he was still out of breath from running and was gulping air in great big breaths.

When Johnny was done, Jimmy looked at him and said, “Jonathan, my brother, we both know that the King is a loving and kind king. He can also be very harsh when he needs to be. But, perhaps you have just learned that he is also fair and just. The master of the storehouse got what he deserved. Because we have been forgiven, we need also to forgive others.”

With that, Jimmy picked up his broom and returned to his work. Johnny did the same and spent the rest of the day sweeping up the storehouse. Johnny thought to himself, “Well, if I am stuck here in this place, at least I have a kind king that is just and fair. I will just have to learn to do the best that I can.”

At the end of the day, they returned their brooms to the wall where tools were kept. After an evening meal; he and Jimmy spent time talking. Johnny had a lot of questions about this new kingdom he was now living in. After the sun was well down, Jimmy put out the little lamp that they had in their room. They wished each other a good night. Johnny stretched and felt a lot of soreness in muscles that he didn’t know that he had before. He dropped back into his bed exhausted from the day’s work and began to pray as he did each night. Whatever else had changed in his life, he was sure that God was still there. Johnny thanked him for the events of the day and prayed for Jimmy, the King, and Queen. Then he prayed for his family back where he came from. As he was doing that, he fell into a deep sleep.

When Johnny woke up the next morning, he opened his eyes to find that he was back in his own old bed, in his own old house, in his own time. He jumped out of bed and rushed to tell the story to his mom & dad. They listened with interest but kept looking at each other with confused looks on their faces. When he was done, his father put his arm around his shoulders and told him that it was a wonderful story and that he should write it down sometime. He ate his breakfast quickly because he couldn’t wait to get to Sunday school that morning. Boy did he have a story to tell!

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 3

Now, Johnny was really getting a little concerned because he never spoke that way before, but he followed Jimmy and wondered where they were going and what was going to happen because he really did not know anything about any chariot.

As he followed Jimmy, he looked around him and saw that the same rough style of furniture was everywhere, the walls were rough stone and walls had large tapestries hanging from where the ceiling meets the walls. This was very confusing. He was really trying hard to figure out where he was, when this was and who he was.

When they got to the main hall where the throne room was, James leaned over to Johnny and whispered, “Jonathan, since you seem to be out of sorts, I will remind you that you need to approach the king with your head bowed and then when you get close to the throne, get on your knees and say, ‘By your leave, Your Majesty, your servant appears as requested.’”

While they waited for Johnny’s turn, there was an older man there who was pleading with the king for mercy. You see he owed a very great deal of money to the king and was unable to pay back the sum and had been dishonest in many of his dealings for the king. After some talking with his advisors, the king had decided that the man should be sent to prison, his land and belongings sold and his family sold into slavery.

The man burst into tears, dropped face down on the floor and pleaded with the king for mercy. He said that he repented of his dishonesty and promised to be completely fair and honest from then on.

“Please do not deal so harshly with me and my wife and small children Your Majesty! I will faithfully serve you for the rest of my days!”

The King looked at the Queen and she nodded her head. The king forgave his debts, admonished him to be honest and faithful and let him go.

“Oh, thank you, sire. You will not regret this generosity at all. I will serve you faithfully and honestly from this day forward.”  Then he bowed nearly to the floor, backed away from the throne and nearly ran from the main hall talking excitedly.

Now it was Johnny’s turn. He took a quick look at Jimmy, nodded his head and walked slowly toward the throne. Even with his head bowed, Johnny took quick looks around the room, it was HUGE! The ceilings in this room seemed to reach up to the sky. There were very tall windows on each side, making the room very light and much cooler than the rest of the castle. As he approached the throne there was a very large, thick carpet.

The king looked sort of familiar.

Finally, he reached the appointed spot and kneeled down as Jimmy had told him and said loudly, “By your leave, Your Majesty, your servant appears as requested.”

There was a long silence and then a kindly voice said to him, “Rise, young Jonathan and face your King.”

Johnny stood up, took one look at the king and nearly fainted. Uncle Klaus was the King! Aunt Harriet was the Queen! Johnny shook his head and looked again and they were still there.

“Whoa! What was going on?” He thought to himself.

The king spoke again, “Young Jonathan, you have been a faithful servant and as a result, I advanced you enough gold to purchase a chariot that had captured your imagination. But, according to the Royal Treasurer, you have not kept up with the payments that you promised to make. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Johnny’s thoughts were racing around in his head trying to think of something to say, for he did not want to end up in prison, even if it was a dream prison. Johnny found himself bowing toward the king again and saying “Please, your majesty, if it pleases the King and his Queen, only allow me some more time. I am sure that I will be able to catch up on my payments. Please forgive your humble servant.” And with that, Johnny found himself back on his knees, head bowed low toward the floor.

Johnny could hear the Queen talking quietly to the King. He thought to himself, “She sure sounds like Aunt Harriet.”

Then the King spoke up, “Young Jonathan, the Queen and I have decided to forgive your debt due to your faithful service to us. Please rise. Your debt is forgiven. You may depart from our presence in peace.”

Johnny could not believe what he had heard. But, he decided that the best thing to do would be to thank them for their generosity and leave quickly before they changed their minds.

He bowed again and said, “Your servant is most grateful to his King and Queen. May you live forever! I pledge myself to you and will be indebted to you as long as I live.”

He began to back away from the thrones and, at the same time wondering, “Where did I learn to talk like that? This is VERY confusing.”

When he got back to where Jimmy was standing, waiting for him. He turned around, grabbed Jimmy by the arm and hurried out of the main hall.

“What just happened?” whispered Johnny to Jimmy. Jimmy stopped in his tracks in the hallway that headed back to their room. “The King and Queen just forgave you a huge debt that you could never repay.”

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 2

When Johnny got home, the phone rang and it was Mr. Christopherson on the phone.

“Johnny, how are you doing?”

“I’m fine Mr. Christopherson, how are you? Is there something that I can do for you?” asked Johnny.

“There sure is, Johnny. I have a favor to ask of you.”

Johnny responded, “Sure Mr. Christopherson, what is it?”

The voice on the telephone continued, “Could you help me act out a Bible story tomorrow? We are going to do the story of the Unforgiving Servant and I need a couple of you kids to help me with it. Would you be willing to do that for me?”

Johnny replied enthusiastically, “Wow! You bet Mr. Christopherson. I’d love to help!”

“Great Johnny, thank you. Take some time to read the story tonight before you go to bed so you will know it for tomorrow. You can find it in Matthew chapter 18, verses 23 through 34. Can you do that for me?” asked Mr. Christopherson.

“Absolutely, I wrote the reference down and I will read the story through a couple of times tonight. Thanks for asking me to help, Mr. Christopherson!” he said.

“You bet, Johnny. I knew that I could count on you. I’ll see you in the morning.” Mr. Christopherson said.

“Yes sir, Mr. Christopherson. Goodnight.” Johnny hung the phone and then wondered what part he was going to play.

After dinner, Johnny went to his room so that he could read the story that Mr. Christopherson asked him to read. He picked up his Bible and read it through three times, wondering which part he was going to play. He hoped that it was not going to be that unforgiving servant.

That evening while Johnny was getting ready for bed, his thoughts bounced back and forth between the bicycle in the window at Anderson’s Hardware, Uncle Klaus saying that he wanted to help Johnny get the money to buy the bike and the Bible story that he had read.

By the time that he said his bedtime prayers and laid down to go to sleep, the bike and Uncle Klaus and the Bible story were running into each other in his head, each demanding his attention…the next thing he knew was someone was shaking him.

“Jonathon! Jonathon! Wake up; the king wants to see you. He wants to see you NOW!”

Johnny rolled over away from the voice and said, “I don’t care who it is, I just got to sleep and want to go back to sleep. Whoever it is can wait until morning.”

The shaking kept on and the voice was even more excitedly trying to get his attention,

“Jonathan it is the KING, you have to get up and go to see him immediately or he will throw you into prison.”

Johnny was finally starting to wake up and understand what was being said. He rolled over to the edge of the bed, sat up and slowly opened his eyes. What he saw shocked and confused him. Instead of his neat and spacious bedroom with modern furniture, he saw a rough stone floor, with rough wooden furniture.

The person trying to wake him up looked a lot like Jimmy Barski, but he had a really funny haircut and was wearing some kind of dress and sandals.

He was too shocked at first to say anything, but then Johnny tried to speak again and was able to say, “Who are you and where am I?”

“Oh Jonathan, you are always a jester, but now is not the time for His Majesty the King has called for all of his servants that he has loaned money to. He loaned you enough to buy that chariot that you are always racing around in. I am guessing that he wants to know when he is going to get paid back.”

Johnny was still trying to get his bearings and was wondering what Jimmy Barski was doing in his dream. He was sure that this was a dream. Maybe he shouldn’t have had that extra ice cream just before going to bed.

“Who are you,” Johnny asked. “Who am I? Have you taken leave of your senses?”

“Who am I? Have you taken leave of your senses?”

“Um, no,” Johnny said scratching his head.

“I am your brother James. Now, PLEASE, get up and go to the king. He is not a patient man.”

Johnny was beginning to realize that he was going to have to go along with Jimmy –or- James as he was calling himself. He reached down for his shoes and realized that all he had was a pair of leather sandals and he was wearing the same type of dress that Jimmy was. Not wanting to make any more of a fuss, he slipped his feet into the sandals and secured the straps.

Then he stood up and said, “I am feeling none too well, please lead me, brother.”

Two Brothers – Part 3

Cain had already arrived and sat staring into the whirling pools of the shallow water near the rock. His face was contorted with anger as he stared into the water. His heart was so heavy that he thought that it was going to fall out of his chest into the river. He had never felt so depressed or oppressed before in his life. Just as he was considering what to do next, he heard a voice. A voice he had never heard before, but he had no doubt about whose it was.

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked him. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.”

Cain stood staring at the sky for what seemed forever and then collapsed on the rock in a heap. He knew the Lord was right. But, there was something in him that would not accept it, that the wrong way against it. Pride had entered into his heart and would not relinquish it. Even for the Lord.

“Cain! Cain?” Abel shouted as he reached the spot where the two boys had spent so much time in their younger years.

When Cain heard that, he jumped up and turned quickly in the direction of his brother’s voice. “What? Haven’t you had enough of being the perfect one? Did you have to track me down to gloat?”

“That’s not why I came. I was worried about you. I had never seen you run from anything before in your life. I just came to see if you were all right, that’s all.” Abel stood next to his brother and tried to put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!” Cain shouted as he shoved Abel away. “I don’t want your sympathy or your sniveling superior attitude.” He began stepping toward his brother and pushing him violently away back toward the edge of the rock away from the river. Then he suddenly stopped and sat down on the rock.

Once he had regained his balance, Abel stood and stared at his brother for a few long moments and then said, “What is it Cain? We used to tell each other everything. We used to be best friends. But, the last couple of years…it…it seems like I don’t even know you anymore! What happened? Is it something that I have done? If it is, tell me. Let’s work it out. You’re my brother and I love you!”

Cain looked up at his brother with a thoughtful look on his face. He started to speak, “I…I…”, but nothing would come out. Then a thought occurred to him and Abel could see that something flashed across Cain’s face. Something that contorted it for just a moment into something horrible and disfigured. Then Cain’s face softened and looked like his brother again. The brother that he loved.

Then Cain said, “You’re right Abel, let’s talk about it and work it out. You know that section of the lower field that you brought your sheep across? Let’s walk over there and see if we can’t figure out a path for you to use regularly.” He stood up walked toward his brother, stretched out his arm and put it around Abel’s shoulder. They began walking toward the lower field together talking and laughing like the old days.

Once they reached their destination, something seemed to change in Cain. He got quiet suddenly. He stepped away from and behind his brother. He stooped as if to pick up a clod of soil to examine it, but picked up a rock instead. He then swung that rock in the direction of Abel’s head. The rock collided with Abel’s head and Abel slumped to the ground in a heap. Blood began to seep into the ground.

Cain stood over his brother’s body. Then he quickly dug a shallow grave with his hand out of the soft earth. He quickly buried his brother and then began to wander back in the direction of the river. He didn’t know where else to go. He walked slowly at first and then he began to run. Finally, he ran as fast as he could until he reached the rock again.

His chest was heaving and his heart racing. His mind also was racing, thinking trying to figure a way out of, out of…what he had done. He was a tangled knot of emotions. Angry, sad, fearful, defiant, happy, confused and dazed. Into that fog came the voice he had heard just an hour or so ago.

Two Brothers – Part 2

The day had finally arrived for their Harvest Offering. At the end of the season, the family brought together offerings to the Lord to thank Him for the bounty that He had provided for them. Each member of the family brought the best of what their labors had produced. Adam and Eve both brought their offerings first. Then it was the boy’s turn.

Cain hurriedly brought a basket overflowing with items that he had grown this season. Each one had been selected with care. Adam noticed that, even though the basket was overflowing, the produce was among the ripest, very ripe. Some were almost beyond use. He also noticed that the basket was one size smaller than last year. He was not pleased with what his son had done and decided that he would talk to him about it after the ceremony. His oldest son was quickly done with his portion of their ceremony and backed away from the altar.

Abel’s gift was from the best of his youngest lambs. They were without blemish of any sort. Some of them had already been sacrificially killed to prepare for this offering. He slowly and carefully placed them on the altar, along with the choicest fat. He took his time, making sure that everything was just so. He seemed to be talking to himself as he was working at the altar. When he was done, he bowed his head down low and backed away slowly.

Adam approached the altar slowly. He carried with him a torch and lit the wood that had been carefully arranged on the altar and the offerings were consumed. Almost. After the flames had leaped high into the sky and the smoke curled up toward the heavens, there was one item left on the altar that was left mostly untouched by the flames. It was Cain’s basket.

The rest of the family looked first at the basket and then at Cain in disbelief. Cain stared at the basket. His eyes then dropped to the ground. He then turned and ran toward his fields as fast as he could go. Eve started to go after him, but Adam held her back. “He needs to sort this out for himself, Eve. This is between him and the Lord.” Adam said.

Eve turned to her husband, looked into his eyes, and said, “Adam, what happened? Why was his basket not burned with the rest?” Adam responded, “Sweetheart, did you look at that basket? It’s smaller than last year and the produce was all past the peak of ripeness. He didn’t offer the Lord his best and the Lord rejected his offering. He needs to look into his own heart and be honest with the Lord about his motivations and his heart.”

“But, Adam, did you see his face. I have never seen him look so hurt and rejected before. His pride was severely damaged here. I’m really worried about him.” Eve countered. Adam responded, “I think that maybe his pride may have been the issue. It needs to be taken down some. This will be good for him. It’s a lesson he needs to learn. He’s just doing it the hard way.”

Eve looked at her husband and said, “Adam, I don’t see anything wrong with taking pride in who you are or what you do. I’m going to talk to him. I can bring him around. I always have.” Adam took her gently into his arms and said, “At least wait until he comes home for dinner tonight. He’ll have calmed down by then.” “All right, I’ll wait,” she said and nestled into his embrace. Adam looked around for Abel and saw him walking off in the same direction that his brother had run and thought that maybe a brother-to-brother talk was long overdue. Maybe Abel could reach his brother in a way that he had not been able to lately. He turned toward the house with Eve by his side and, together, they walked home.

Abel knew just where to look. Cain always went to the same place when things were tough and confusing. The two boys had spent a lot of time there together when they were little. It was a rock overlooking the river and shaded by a number of trees. Abel headed out across the fields toward the river in search of his brother.

The Garden Gate – Conclusion

By this time, Horace had had enough and decided to put his own two cents in. He cleared his throat and said in his most official voice, “Young lady, please remove yourself from the entrance to my home or I shall be forced to take steps to have you removed!”

“Who ARE you?” Amanda asked. Horace then flew down to a lower branch so that she could more easily see him. “Oh, yes, please forgive my poor manners. My name is Horace Alexander Bumpworth III. This tree is my home, the plumbing has gone out of whack, and the plumbers have just arrived only to find you sitting directly in front of the entrance to my elevator and since beavers cannot climb a tree that is their only way in. So…can you please move yourself so that they can get in?”

Now it took Amanda just a moment to realize what she was being told and then jumped up to clear the way saying, “Oh yes, I am very sorry, I didn’t know.”

Horace replied, “That’s quite alright, no harm done. Maury, would you please go and get the beavers back here so that they can go on with their work?” Maury said, “Sure Horace, right away.

Amanda watched Maury fly off to retrieve the beavers and then looked at Horace who asked, “And who might you be, young lady?”

With a slight hesitation, because she had never spoken to an owl before, Amanda replied, “My name is Amanda Applewhite. I live with my father on a farm in, in…” Amanda looked all around trying to get her bearings and realized that she was not quite sure which way was home. “It’s in that direction,” she said pointing west.

Horace ruffled his feathers, gave a little hoot, and said, “Well, it seems that you have gotten yourself lost. Perhaps you should turn right around and head home right away. You wouldn’t want to anyone to worry about you, so off you go! Goodbye! On your way!” Then he flew back up to his front porch.

Amanda just stood there staring at Horace as he perched about halfway up the tree. She realized that unless she looked really hard she couldn’t see that there was a little structure sticking out of the tree. Horace opened what looked like a little door and went inside. She then thought that she could hear a door close. She shook her head, looked around the clearing for the beavers and didn’t see a thing. She looked up again and tried to see Horace’s front porch again and it wasn’t there! Amanda closed her eyes, shook her head again, looked all around, and could see no trace of the owl or the beavers.

She closed her eyes and began to rub them. She was just starting to think that she had imagined it all when she opened her eyes again and found that herself yawning and stretching her arms. She realized that she was sitting down and leaning up against the tree again. She could hear the buzz as a dragonfly went close by her ear towards the stream and then up into a shaft of sunlight before disappearing.

Amanda wondered if she had just dreamed the whole thing, shook her head again and then headed home. She had a real story to tell her dad, but she was not sure exactly what to tell him. When she got to the place where the garden gate was, she opened it, walked through and closed it. She walked a little ways toward where she had entered into the forest and turned around. The path was gone. She took a couple of steps back toward the gate and now it was gone too. She stood and stared for just a minute, reached back and felt a lump on the back of her head. “Ouch!” she said out loud and was surprised by the sound of her own voice. Her head hurt and she decided that she had better go home.

When she reached the edge of the forest, she could see that the sun was getting low in the sky. It was then that she realized that she had a bunch of wildflowers in her hand. She turned toward home and ran.