The sun rises over the hazy mist as Farmer Pete plows his fields with a team of horses. Pastor Jim is up early in the morning too. He’s prepping for the day with study and prayer. Then, he’s on his way to the bank, and then to meet Farmer Pete out in the fields and discuss his status with respect to the gospel. A few days prior, pastor Jim receives a newsletter from his denomination, showing a cartoon of a stuffy, over-educated clergyman with upturned nose, spectacles, and priestly attire. With his finger raised in professorial pose, he offers a discourse to a parishioner—a farmer—on a ‘complex’ theological topic. The farmer, aghast and holding on to his hat for fear of it blowing off due to the clergyman’s hot air, says, “Hold on, Pastor!” and “Watch your language! Don’t you know we’re simple folks? You gotta speak at our level!” After reading the cartoon, Pastor Jim slips the newsletter into his unabridged copy of St. Augustine’s The City of God, stuffs the book into his saddle bag, and heads out the door, in anticipation of his long day of pastoral visitation.
Casually entering the local bank, Jim meets with Harold, the manager. His church is planning on an addition to the church building, with an expansion of the cemetery. During the conversation, Jim asks Harold to help him understand some of the ‘complex’ ideas surrounding the church’s acquisition of new land: terms like easement, abstract of title, partial release, and so on. Now, Pastor Jim has a vague idea what these terms mean, because of his prolonged conversations with Harold over time. Of course, Harold is well-studied in this area (it’s his job to be), and he explains them to Jim. He leaves the office with a greater understanding of the banking system, land acquisition, terms of agreement, and so forth, no problem. Now for his meeting with Farmer Pete.
Pete’s not been at church in years, though his wife and children show up now and again. Pastor Jim aims to find out the reason for Pete’s absence, and invite (or compel) him to come to church.
“Ah jus’ don’t see why Ah need to be there,” says Pete, chewing on a piece of grass. “The good Lord knows Ah work hard, ‘n Ah just ain’t got the time for it, ‘n Ah think the Lord’ll ‘cept me just the way I am. I got faith. ‘n besides, church seems too sissy for me, if you don’t mind me sayin’.”
“Is that so?”
“What makes you so sure?”
“That the ‘The Lord’ll ‘cept’ you just the way you are.”
“Well, why wouldn’t He? He’s the good Lord, after all. Mmm hmmm.” He gnaws on his grass for emphasis, swallowing hard.
Darn right Lord’ll ‘cept ‘im.
But then Pastor Jim mentions to Farmer Pete about the problem of sin, justification, sanctification, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, along with the necessity of faith, repentance, and “performing deeds in keeping with repentance” (Acts 26:20) and “righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25).
“Now HOLD ON PASTOR!” says Farmer Pete. I didn’t unnerstan’ a word you just said. Well, ‘cept that stuff about righteousness, good works, and the coming judgment ‘n all. But I just don’t know. I’m a simple man.”
"You mean you like rum, and bacon and eggs?"
"Island. It's an adventure book about Pirates."
"Peter,” says Jim. "I just got back from the bank, talking with Harold about the church’s new building project, the land acquisition, the cemetery, and all kinds of things that Harold is an expert at. Do you think I understand everything Harold does?”
“Reckon not. Ah’ve spoke with Harold, too.”
“But isn’t it my responsibility to know what Harold is talking about? After all, I’m in charge of this whole business with the church.“
“Ah see your point.”
“And Harold is educated enough in his field to know how to explain to me what all that stuff means. And it’s my job to pay attention and to listen up. Right?”
“So, it’s no different in this situation. You need to come to church, and get educated in the Scriptures, mister. It’s your responsibility. And it’s my responsibility to make sure you’re educated in this Scriptures, and in many other things besides, like church history. You see?”
Pete hems and haws and squirms a bit. “Don’t reckon Ah know if I quite see jus’ yet. Y’see? Ah’ve got all this work to do. Ah ain’t got time for all yer talkin’ ‘bout.”
“Peter, God has not called you to be a simple man—at least not with respect to how you think about Him and what He has called you to do. His commandment for you is to gather together with the saints for worship, prayer, and fellowship. And besides the commandment, isn’t God Himself worth it? Isn’t He worth the effort to stop thinking about work and whether church is for sissies? Isn’t God, who is your only, true, source of joy and everlasting comfort, worth the sacrifice it takes to meditate on Him and think deeply about Him?”
Farmer Pete ponders for a moment of silence. The mid-morning sun has burned off the haze amidst the surrounding hills, leaving a clear line on the horizon. He says nothing, but stares out, focusing on a single, solitary tree standing perfectly on the line of a distant knoll. Pastor Jim think he sees Farmer Pete nod his head, but maybe it’s just the movement of his breathing.
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