I’ve known Reverend Mason and Father Franklin for most of my life, long before I took the oath to devote my life to God and become a preacher myself. I always respected both men, despite the fact that Reverend Mason seemed empty as regards hard religious doctrine, and Father Franklin seemed positively stoic when it came to acknowledging any other faith besides the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Their strong clash of personalities, and yet the depth of their love for others,
made their distant friendship all the more fascinating.
The two spiritual giants would get together, crack a few jokes and try to behave civilly, only to be carried away into a feverous religious debate—every single time. By the time I became Pastor of White Lily Church, these two pillars of faith were advanced in age, and sought each other’s friendship out of desperation. These former leaders, now reluctantly settled into their roles as listeners, enjoyed conversing with each other about the Old Faith. This was preferable to facing a new age of cynicism that has to this day permeated our modern society. Old ministers believe—they have to, or else their life would suddenly lack meaning.
This I realized one cold December morning, as I spotted the two merrily conversing in the church. I was just leaving after being called in by Reverend Osirus to discuss a delicate matter of finance. The two men were so wrapped up in excitable conversation they didn’t realize that the 3rd Evangelical Church of Cook County, a preserved landmark long abandoned but frequently visited by the town’s most influential figures, wasn’t yet completely empty. I was just about to introduce myself when I heard a familiar name.
“Meadows is a prime example of that. He perfectly fits the description of ignorant youth. A man solely interested in the prominence of ministering, but not at all up to date with church doctrine,” Father Franklin mumbled.
Mason shrugged and half-heartedly agreed. “It’s not so much his education I doubt. He just comes across too pious. A bit condescending to the average churchgoer. More of the clergy than of the laity class, if you will.”
I smiled, hurt by accusations that were nothing new to me, but still surprising, coming from two of my childhood heroes. If I introduced myself at that point, I would have either walked into an argument or been approached by hypocritical friendliness. I decided my only option was to remain silent and stay behind a protective wall and continue my eavesdropping in “ignorance.”
“What can you expect though,” Mason continued. “He is a reflection of the lost children of today. Today’s youth are godless and reject anything associated with faith. We seek refuge in a church while they go out and control the world with an iron fist. Capitalism, the new Nazi Regime. Do we expect anything more than a hypocritical pastor to guide them?”
“But of course, they will never see that,” Franklin said defiantly. “You can explain a man’s flaw to straight to his face for countless hours in a day and yet he will never see it. No, if it challenges him, his self-preserving view of the world, it is a lie. That’s all society has amounted to in this godless age, public ego stroking.”
I started to recollect on my own experiences with doubt and reconciling church hypocrisy but was distracted by a light. The interior of the church was obscured by darkness; only a few candles allowed me to see the sad faces of the two holy men. The light was so bright in contour that I hardly noticed at first that it was red. Blood red, and protruding forth from the eye of the crucified Jesus statue standing in front of the auditorium. Both of the Lord’s eyes glowed as if to send an omen of doom to the elders.
The closer I looked the more frightened I became, as I noticed real blood began to pour from the statue, as if to be mocking the ransom sacrifice that these two men held dear. What evil spirit had possessed the church? Would the two men be so startled that their delicate hearts would give out? I wanted to intervene but was held back by my childish fear.
I looked up to the high ceiling and to my horror focused my attention on the bleeding walls. However, the blood was not flooding the entire church area; it was restricted to one third of the building, so far on the left that not a single drop hit Reverend Mason or Father Franklin’s shoes.
As if my head was being turned by an invisible anti-Christ I suddenly gazed over at the clock—it was eight o’ clock, the same time displayed when I entered the church three hours ago. Time had stopped a third of the way only to remind me of an ominous scripture:
Revelation 8:1 “When he broke open the seventh seal, a third of the sea turned to blood.”
I shrunk back in terror as I perceived the spirit’s malefic warning. These holy men, their entire life’s work, would eventually turn to blood. A third of the world, the Apostolic succession of Christianity, would die and take with it a third of the living creatures in the sea. Oh God, to see so many of your own children die…how it must pang you like a mother’s own despair.
Even while my own heart nearly stopped at all these implications, I found the reactions of Mason and Franklin to be rather subdued.
“Meadows also lacks speaking ability, if you ask me,” Franklin quipped. “He speaks as if he’s mentally handicapped, not zealous.”
My horrified expression calmed to a frown and the bleeding ceased. Whatever incomprehensible thing I beheld was privileged only to me, since the two men continued to freely converse, not a worry in the world between the two of them though plenty of foibles. Just as I began to panic, believing that this evil spirit had entrusted upon me a shocking revelation, I was soothed into taking a different perception.
Perhaps what I witnessed was not a portent but a self-interpretation of my dark surroundings. After all, they never talked about it, the two pillars of strength, safely sitting behind me judging the actions of others. Why, I don’t believe they even saw the curious event.