Candace's Church

Candace sat in her favorite seat at church, the second row, the seat next to the middle aisle. She was the epitome of fashion with everything about her being expensive. She was dressed in a Dolce &  Gabbana designer dress, Christian Louboutin heels, and a Burberry leather jacket. Her jewelry was from Cartier and she wore several pieces of it. She had spent hours at the salon yesterday getting her hair done to her pious satisfaction.

Now here she sat, trying not to be a spectacle, but secretly she hoped she was. In her mind, she thought, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” She knew people talked behind her back, but she didn’t care. This was "HER" church. Bought and paid for by her generous tithes and offerings. And because of it, she felt she had a say so in everything that happened there.

She was the Sunday School Superintendent, Head of the Food Pantry, and was in charge of Vacation Bible School. What she wanted she usually got. The Church Board had gone head to head with her before and had backed down after she threatened to stop her large offerings.

“How dare they tell me no!” she had thought, “don’t they know who I am and what I am? I own this place!”

And so it went on for years. The pastor’s hands were tied. He had to do what the Board told him to do. He had preached about arrogance and having a haughty spirit but to no avail. She ignored him.

The church never grew because she kept driving people away. Everyone who walked through the doors was scrutinized and evaluated. If they didn’t live up to her standards, and not many did, she ignored them completely. They quickly got the unspoken message and left for a more Christian-like atmosphere.

“Goodbye and good riddance!” she had thought, “I don’t want the poor, needy, and hypocrites in my church. I want people just like me!”

More than one departing family had fired a verbal shot at her. Hypocrite being the term used the most. She didn’t care. She knew what she was, or thought she did, a devout member of the church. She had ways of getting “even” and used them ruthlessly. Being wealthy and influential in her community, she would call in favors, with the business and associations, against her accusers. Several of the accused had been fired from their jobs. Others had been shunned and were refused services that were needed. Bank loans had been denied and doors slammed shut in their faces. All because of the power she wielded.

One Sunday morning the pastor had enough. He let her have it from the pulpit. She sat quietly but she was seething inside.

“How dare he call me out!” she fumed, “I’ll take care of him!”

The elders and deacons cringed during the sermon, knowing what was coming. After church she cornered them.

“I want him fired immediately!”

“Now, Candace, are you sure. It will be hard to replace him.”

“Yes, I’m sure. He attacked me from the pulpit!”

The elders knew that what the pastor had done was needed. They also knew that if they bucked her she would make life miserable for them. They had no choice. Calling the pastor at home, they broke the bad news to him.

“I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time. You’re going to have a hard time finding my replacement. Everybody knows about her and wants nothing to do with her,” he told them.

“We know it’s going to be hard, but our hands are tied, goodbye Pastor.”

And so the process began. Candace insisted on being involved with hiring a new pastor. They had brought in several candidates, interviewed them, and had each one preach a Sunday service. Candace didn’t like any of them. She wanted someone she could control.

The board had one more applicant to interview. A man, in his early thirties, had applied. They had set up a time and were waiting when he came through the door. He had a dark complexion, he was of average height and seemed very sure of himself. There was something special about him, something they couldn’t put a finger on.

“Hello. Tell us your name again, please,” asked Candace.

“Jesus,” he replied.

“Oh, so you’re Hispanic?” she asked, wondering if she could influence him.

Ignoring her, he focused on the other members of the Board.

“According to your resume we see that you have had a lot of experience,” one member said.

“Yes, I have preached for a long time,” he answered.

“Can you tell us where?”

“I have been all over the world. Most of my time was spent in the Middle East,” he answered.

“You’re not old enough to have been in all of those places,” scoffed Candace.

“I can assure you that I have.”

“I don’t believe it,” she judged.

“Candace, what do you believe?”

“How do you know my name? We’ve never met before.”

“You are right. We haven’t met. But I know all about you. I have watched you for years.”

“Who are you?”

Candace quickly glanced at the other board members. It was as if they were frozen in time. They couldn’t see or hear what was going on. She quickly became frightened.

“Who are you?”

“I think you know. Look at my hands,” he said while offering them to her.

She stared at them in awe, not believing what she was seeing. In his palms were puncture wound scars. She hesitantly reached out and touched them. The scars were rough and jagged.

“Jesus? The real Jesus? You’re not Hispanic?”

“No, I have a different nationality.”

“Why are you here? Why did you apply for the job?”

“It was brought to my attention that there was a church in trouble. I came to fix it,” He answered.

“And you came here? There’s nothing wrong with my church,” she replied.

“There isn’t? I was led to believe that this church is owned by you instead of me.”

“My church! What gave you that impression?”

“Isn’t that what you told the Board Members and the Pastor?”

“But it is my church. I’ve put all of my money into it. I feel like it should belong to me!”

“Candace, you can’t buy your way into Heaven. It doesn’t work that way. You have heard this preached before and chose to ignore it.”

“But Jesus, look at all the things I have done for the church. Everybody in town knows I go here. What is wrong with me setting a high standard. After all, I am rich and better than almost everybody that goes here. I don’t understand.”

“I know all about you and your attitude. Do you remember my teaching about wood, hay, and stubble? Because of your belligerence. I count your deeds as stubble. You are only interested in what will exalt you, not me. Are you familiar with the scripture about being lukewarm? Because of your actions, I must spew you from my mouth,” replied Jesus.

“That’s not fair! What will people think? I will be the laughingstock of the community. I thought I was doing the right thing!”

“Far from it,” He replied, “everything you have done has been lip service only. Even you asking me into your heart was a ruse to make you look good so that people would think you were better than you are.”

A tear streaked her face. Someone had finally called her out. Someone she couldn’t dispute and ridicule.

“What must I do?” she tentatively asked.

“I have never known you because you haven’t allowed me to enter your heart. I want to walk with you, help you, and love you. I can’t force you to know me. It is entirely up to you,” He answered.

“I don’t know if I can. What will people say? They’ll laugh at me. I won’t be able to show my face at the Country Club again. Do I really have to do this? You’re asking a lot of me,” she softly asked.

“Yes, you do. If you want to be set free you have no other option,” He again answered.

“Can I keep my things? My clothing and my jewelry?”

“Yes, but do not flaunt it in front of everybody. Do not cause people to focus on you instead of me. I don’t care if you have them, just be careful.”

Candace thought about it for a few moments. All of her life she had sought attention and had used her wealth as a crutch. Now she was beginning to see how wrong she had been.

“The sinner’s prayer? Do I have to do it?”

“Yes, you must come to me, pure and spotless.”

“Jesus, I have been so wrong. I want to know you. Please forgive me of my sins. Forgive me for being a fool. Please enter my heart,” she sobbed.

At that precise moment, she was back in the meeting. Jesus was still there, talking to the elders.

“I have decided to withdraw my application,“ he said.

“Oh, and why is that?”

“I believe I am needed elsewhere,” he answered.

As He turned to leave, he glanced at Candace and nodded.

She watched Him go through the door and turned back to the elders.

“I may have been a little hasty concerning firing the pastor. Let’s see if we can hire him back. Offer him twice what we were paying him. And I want you to do it. Leave me out of it, please. I will be happy with whoever we hire,” she offered.

An angel reported to Jesus what she had done. Nodding his head, he began the process of rehiring the pastor.

“Good, I have won another soul back from Satan. It is good indeed!”

October 8, 2020