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!