He was a good man, but much of his goodness was in a bad way. He didn’t curse, steal, tell lies, or violate the Sabbath. He did not argue with, disparage, or fight his neighbors. He didn’t play cards, dance, drink whisky, or attend to the theater. Even the circus was avoided by him. He was therefore chosen as the class leader because he was such a bland individual. He lacked all positive qualities. He had just enough imitation to get into a rut, but never enough energy to climb out of it. Every week at the beginning of the meeting, he said the same prayer. He repeated the same “event” until each student in the class knew it by memory. He repeatedly revisited the same territory until it left no lasting impression other than weariness, starting with the day when God for Christ’s sake spoke peace to his soul twenty years earlier and concluding with the clichéd expression of a hope that he would weather the storm and enter the haven of everlasting rest. Brother, tell us the condition of your never-dying soul. He approached each person with his eyes closed and his face stretched. Sister, describe how the Lord has treated you and your chances of entering paradise and receiving eternal glory.

Of course, the solutions were just as hazy as the questions. Nothing was available to hang anything from. So they, one after another, would say they had many troubles, and trials, and tribulations, and temptations, but they hoped to hold on and get to the kingdom at last.

The leader’s admonition, which came after each discourse, was the height of his class meetings’ stupidity: service. It was rambling and almost completely meaningless, and it never altered. The only thing it had was the constant utterance of a few well wishes or mechanical prayers that the brother or sister would prove faithful until death and then be crowned in front of cheering crowds on the other side of the Jordan. There was nothing instructive about it. A protracted prayer is followed by dismissal.

One by one, the class’s younger students started to leave. Then, one started to miss the others. Finally, there were only three or four elderly folks left, and it was clear from their expressions that they had endured rather than enjoyed the class gathering. They moaned, “It’s not like the good old days. “The Church seems lifeless and chilly. The days are terrible, and the Holy Ghost religion is no longer relevant.” They endured suffering and hardship while appearing to have no idea what was wrong in the simplicity of their good hearts. The Class had died of starvation. The ancient soupbones had been repeatedly boiled until there was no longer any nutrition in them.

By Nathan Zipfel

Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene Pastor of the New Life Church of the Nazarene in Boswell, PA. Batchelor of Arts Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Bible College Master of Arts, Ministry, Ohio Christian University Master of Social Work, Indiana Wesleyan University Behavioral Health Therapist

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