“Easter and the mysterious BEEP”

Now that Easter is approaching, I’m reminded of a very strange incident during one Holy Week at my first congregation near Madison, Wisconsin. (Go, Badgers!)

Holy Week was also Spring break.  I was asked by a family from the church to watch their cockatiel while they went out of town.  The bird’s name was Joey.

One evening, I was watching TV when I heard a familiar BEEP.  The smoke alarm.  I went to my study, looked at the alarm — nothing seemed to be amiss.  I went into the kitchen to check the stove (the likely source of smoke in my house.  I myself am not a smoker.)

I went back to the TV program.


Again?!  I figured the alarm’s battery was expiring.  So I took the one remaining battery that I had from my desk, took down the smoke alarm and changed the battery.  I went back to the TV program.


What?!  I went upstairs where there was another smoke alarm.  This one was in the hall.  I looked around — nothing seemed to be amiss.  No smoke anywhere.  I went back downstairs to the TV program.


Aargh!  I sprinted up the steps, manhandled a chair out of a room, stood on the chair and ripped the smoke alarm down from the ceiling.  I didn’t have another battery.  So I just disassembled the smoke alarm.  WHILE I was standing there, looking at the smoke alarm in pieces — BEEP!


It was only then that I figured it out.  It was Joey!

I doubled over laughing.  That Sunday, for my Easter sermon, I worked this story into the message — it was too good to pass over.  Later that day, the family that owned Joey returned and picked up their cockatiel.

Easter after the worship service is a time for a pastor to relax — after all of that build-up during Holy Week.  I was flopped in front of the TV, just lounging.


NO!!! Impossible!  How can this be?  Joey’s back home!  I went roaming around the house looking for the sound when — BEEP!  Aha!  I zeroed in on it.  The sound was coming from a smoke alarm whose location I had been unaware of.

Well, what do you know?  It wasn’t Joey after all–and, oh, good heavens, I had told the story in the Easter sermon!

It just goes to show — you preach on what you know to be true at the time.  But things may change.

One time, during my years at that church, I was having problems with a raw throat and runny nose.  So, I went to see an allergist.  He asked me what allergies I already had.  I told him, “Dust and perfume.”

He replied, “You can’t be allergic to perfume.”

I argued, “When I was young, an allergist told me I was allergic to perfume!

He said, “When I was a young doctor, I said lots of things that I later found out weren’t true.”

It’s the same with preachers.

The anecdote about Joey was a good one.  I resisted having to give it up.  But I had to.  New information had arisen.  I couldn’t stick to the same story.  But the new thing that I learned had itself become a story.  IT could go into a sermon.  We are all fascinated by what makes people change – with ourselves as the best-known example.

Meanwhile, the family that owned Joey got back to me some time later, puzzled.  He was making BEEP sounds.

I couldn’t blame him.  He had heard it enough times!


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