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Our Current Virtual Church Message

The Image

Willard wasn't quite sure where he was or where he was going. At the moment, Willard was in his 1988 Buick, a very beat up 1988 Buick, headed down a country road in Kansas. The car started to shudder and then the engine died. The car was a lot like Willard, beat up. Willard got out of the car and lifted the hood. Water and oil were dripping out of the engine. Willard put the hood down because Willard had no tools and the car looked like it was ready to be permanently towed. Being in the middle of farm country, Willard thought maybe he could find a nearby farm. Willard started walking and walked for miles until he came upon an old church. There was one car outside the church so Willard thought maybe he could catch a ride to somewhere else. Willard walked up to the front door of the church and pulled the door open. He stepped inside to see no pews, just a lot of folding chairs in disarray. Willard didn't see anyone, but he was so exhausted from walking all those miles he didn't care. Willard eased himself down into one of the folding chairs to rest for just a moment. Willard had not been in a church since he was a boy, then only on occasion. Willard believed there was a God but it seemed to Willard that God didn't believe in him. Willard had lost everything and everybody. Willard was not at the end of his rope, he was past it. Willard's wife had died, his children no longer wanted contact with him, his business had died in the recession, and there was more. It all melted into an abyss no one cared about. Even Willard didn't care anymore.

In a few moments, an older gentleman walked out of a little anteroom at the front of the church. Willard stood up and the old guy shook hands with Willard and introduced himself as Amos Caldwell. Willard explained about his car and Amos said he would give Willard a lift into Upton, the nearest town. Amos and Willard sat down and said, "Where do you hail from, Willard?" Willard replied, "I used to be from North Carolina, but now I don't hail from anywhere. I lost everything, including my family. I was on my way to Topeka when the car died. Within a few months of my wife passing away, everything started to crumble and things haven't stopped. Are you the minister here?" Amos replied, "No, I own the building. I grew up here. I grew up in this church but when farming went big business, all the small timers moved out and the church was no more. I bought the church thinking I could convert it into something else or maybe someone might want to start up a church again. The problem in our rural county is there a so few people now and unfortunately most of the few we have are crack heads or meth heads. When I was a boy, we never had crime. Now, crime is everywhere. They even stole the old wooden pews. Are you a preacher by any chance?" Willard looked surprised and said, "No, I am not a preacher. I am not even much of a believer. To be a believer, you gotta have hope and I have run out of hope." Amos said, "Willard, I am 81 and I am going to show you something I have never shown anyone before. Come on up to the front of the church and I will show you." Willard and Amos stood up and Willard followed Amos to the front of the church. Amos pulled a folding chair up next to the prayer rail, where the prayer rail bolted to the wall. Beyond the prayer rail was a space where one of the pulpits used to be and beyond this space was a partial wall or panel supporting the choir benches. Amos spoke and said, "Have a seat, Willard, and we will see if you see it. Now look at that small space between the wall and the panel. Do you see the light coming through that little space?" Willard replied, "Yeah, I see it. What am I supposed to be looking for?" Amos said, "Just a minute and I will be back." Amos walked back into the anteroom and brought out a gold cross that used to stand on the communion table. Amos placed the cross on top of the prayer rail so the light from the small space reflected against the shiny metal of the cross. Amos said, "Adjust the cross till you see it." Being too tired to even ask questions, Willard started moving the cross around just a bit. Then he began to see a reflection or a picture of sorts in the cross.

Suddenly, Willard could see an image, a large three dimensional image of people in a place of incredible beauty. The people were all young looking. Everywhere in the picture there was joy and happiness. The picture was a place of love and hope. There were crystal clear lakes, majestic mountains, carnival rides, gleaming cities, and boundless, endless, days of perfection. In this place, the love was so strong the love carried with it a light dispelling all darkness. Somehow, in this place, there were no shadows. All of Willard's pain was gone as he gazed upon this incredible scene. Willard could hear Amos say "I'll be back" but Willard could make no response as Willard was absorbed in the beauty and love of this place in the cross. Willard lost track of time as he was transfixed on this place so divine. Willard kept seeing a person in each image Willard knew this person was Christ. What was so striking about Him was the humility and love of His Being. It was so obvious this place was His place. It was so obvious He made this place. It was so obvious He was the Creator of all. Willard could feel his heart breaking, not only from the pain of his life, but Willard could feel his heart breaking from never having fully known Christ. Willard found himself talking to Jesus and Jesus responded. Willard apologized for never having known. Jesus wrapped His arms around Willard and in those moments all time and space were transformed into infinite love. Suddenly, Willard heard Amos say "Willard. Willard. I brought you some food and water to drink. You have been here three days." Willard looked around and the position of the sun made it look like it was morning instead of late afternoon. Amos said, "It is Monday morning. You have been here since Friday afternoon. I came back once to check on you and you were gone but I was sure you would be back." In puzzlement and still experiencing the wonder of Christ's grace, Willard said, "Three days, I've been here three days? But I'm not hungry or thirsty. Where was I?" Amos said, "Well, I never told anyone about this. I don't know why I told you. But you have seen what few people have ever seen.

Willard tried to gather himself as best he could. Willard's heart and soul were in sort of a golden fog. Willard said, "I want to go there. To that place in the cross…" Amos said, "Did you accept Him as your Lord and Savior?" Willard said, "Yes. Absolutely yes!" Amos replied, "You need to start praying but you also need to know you will go to that place in due time."

Amos said, "I have seen the image. I have seen the image only twice in my 81 years. After seeing the image, after the first time, I always thought seeing the image was some sort of accident. But when I saw the image again a few years ago, I knew seeing the image was no accident. You can come back here for the rest of your life, but what you must remember is what you saw can be your certain future. Above all things, you must now be about the business of Him who you saw and who embraced you."

Having sort of awakened back into the real world, Amos took Willard into Upton where Willard lived the rest of his life. Willard never saw the image again. Willard continued to have pain and difficulty in his life, even after seeing the image of his future. However, as Willard got closer to the end, he began to feel more joy, day by day. When Amos passed away, Willard's sadness was brief, for Willard knew about the "land that is fairer than day."

Colossians 4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (KJV)

The message first appeared in September, 2008, in the Virtual Church web site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018