#FridayFlash: This Little Light of Mine

This Little Light of Mine

by Tony Noland

Half a sausage pizza and seven beers into the evening, Peters was bored. He put a DVD into his laptop, adjusted his headphones and started to watch a sermon on forgiveness and tolerance. He fast-forwarded, skipping to the middle.
“- for then as for now. Jesus was speaking to you! Reaching out over the centuries to put these words in YOUR heart! In today’s reading from Luke, the thirteenth chapter, Jesus tells a story of a tree that produces no good fruit. So what does the master do? He orders the gardener to cut it down, stop wasting the soil, get a better tree in there. He wants a return on his investment, doesn’t he?

But the gardener says, no sir, give that tree another chance, sir. I’ll feed it, and water it and take care of it, sir. Give it another chance, sir, another chance to produce. If it does, well and good. If not? Zip! Onto the fire! Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, when you hear that story, where are YOU? Where are YOU in that story?

I know what you’re going to say, you’ll say, Pastor Jim, that’s an easy one! I’m that sad and sorry tree, the one that’s letting everyone down. The master is God who’s ready to cut me down, and the gardener is Jesus who’s come to redeem and save me. And if I don’t do good, zip! Onto the fire I’ll go! And I’ll say good for you, that’s a good interpretation.

But hold the phone! I say, hold the phone just a minute, brothers and sisters. Is that all this gospel has for you? Not at all! There is more to this than meets the eye! What if you aren’t the tree? What if you, and I mean YOU, born a sinner the same as I was, what if YOU... are the gardener? What if Jesus is asking YOU to step up and feed your fellow man? Feed him and protect him and support him? To hold him accountable, sure, but to begin... with love?

Or what if YOU are the master? After all, what did the master do? He called it like he saw it, and was all set to do the right thing according to the world's values, the correct thing, the profitable thing! But what did he end up doing? Why, he stayed his hand! He tempered justice... with mercy. Mercy, brothers and sisters! He listened to the gardener who said, oh, no, give this poor wretched sinner of a tree just one more chance! The master turned aside from a straight profit and loss mentality, a return on investment mentality, a worldly mentality and accepted the notion of mercy that the gardener offered.

Don’t you see, brothers and sisters? We find so much in the Gospels if we only open our hearts to Jesus and let him –“
Peters paused the DVD, Pastor Jim Dennet frozen on-screen, open-mouthed and sweaty. The guy had more charisma than three politicians. These inspirational DVD sold plenty; between them, the books and subscribers to the newsletters and websites, Dennet’s ministries made more than thirty million dollars a year.

He looked over at Dennet's daughter, finally asleep on the bed. He'd give it another twelve hours, then call again with the next set of instructions.

He reached into the cooler for another beer.

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Comments and constructive criticisms welcome. Other #FridayFlash pieces can be found here
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38 comments:

  1. Hard core. This was dark Tony. Excellent suggestion woven in.

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  2. Darkly excellent. A return on investment mentality, indeed.

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  3. Thanks for reading, guys. This turn a much darker turn in the writing than I had expected.

    Chilling as it is, I just went with it.

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  4. Peters? And on that rock... what a revelation, Tony. I knew of your righteous talents, but I never had you nailed as a religious man ;o)

    A new wretched take on profit and loss - and this one has pushed you firmly into the black. Darkness in everything including the new blog colour! Nice voices, nicely done.

    Simon.

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  5. Simon: I knew of your righteous talents, but I never had you nailed as a religious man

    Let's just say I try not to go loudly into the temple.

    Actually, I've established my cred as a religious man before on this blog.

    8-)

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  6. After reading that I think I can skip church on Sunday.. oh wait.. I always skip church on Sunday.
    The ending ROCKED! Big hairy surprise on that one!

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  7. Creepy. Glad you went with that ending :)

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  8. Wow. Big-time creep-fest. I didn't see that one coming. Will we see a sequel?

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  9. What a delicious twist at the end. Really well done, I enjoyed it the whole way through.

    Take care,
    Jess

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  10. I read this twice. Amazing sermon, even while I'm not a religious person-- the shift in perspective is off-putting and perfect for the situation. And I'm very curious exactly what's going on here. Has he kidnapped her? What are his designs on the preacher?

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  11. OK, so I guess you all found it kind of creepy, eh? Not spiritually uplifting? Even though I snuck a sermon into the middle of it?

    8-)

    Don't worry, Cathy. Church will always be there, should you ever need to go.

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  12. haha, excellent!
    I "heard" a southern drawl while reading the sermon - it has to be a southern drawl, IMO

    Nice and creepy, and I can but be amused when thieves get robbed :-)

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  13. Creepy indeed. Tony, you nailed that sermon! I could easily hear the pastor, and, as Maria said, the southern drawl.
    Well done!

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  14. Well, he sure did find the "profitable thing" now, didn't he??? lol So, those born with charisma preach and those born without...kidnap! Works for me! Nice!

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  15. Light and darkness. You create them both.

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  16. It occurs to me that if this piece is too dark for anyone, feel free to ignore the external text and just focus on the sermon. Move toward the light...

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  17. Dark and creepy. I like this very much.Great twist at the end.

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  18. Oh man, my brotha - that was great! I was laughing at the end, is that bad? I do feel sorry for the girl, but she clearly is calm enough to sleep and may be enjoying herself more than at home.

    I have heard a lot of sermons like this - and you did nail it. Are you writing sermons in your spare time?

    I have always been skeptical of all those movements that sell millions and billions in the name of religion.

    That ending was such a contrast to the sermon - and a reminder that God will not be saving you from everything, regardless of who you are.

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  19. I forgot to tell you that I like your redesigned site!

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  20. Wow. That was completely unexpected. Loved it...

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  21. Love it, Tony. My first impression was that i wanted the beginning bit and the ending bit to be longer to provide more balance, but sometimes brevity is good. Compact and precise - well done.

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  22. Anne: I'm glad I got the intonation and the sound right in the sermon. I really wanted it to be enthralling and charismatic. As a matter of fact, PJ, that's why the rest of it is so brief - so you'd sink into the sermon and be jarred back to the real world when the DVD stopped.

    Thom, Julie: Thanks! Creepy is good, right?

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  23. Very creepy. I did not see that ending coming at all!
    Great job freaking the bejesus out of me. No pun intended.

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  24. Nice stuff Tony, excellent. Firstly you got the Preacher's voice off perfectly. I could imagine the intonation and yet the slight hint of fakery of a performance on TV/into a camera. But the twist was excellent, it's rare I don't see one coming and that got me.

    marc nash

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  25. Maria, Marc: Thanks for reading! I'm glad I was able to grab you with the ending. "Freaking the bejesus out of me"... I like that!

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  26. And so I ask you: is the kidnapper the sinner tree, the gardener or the profit & loss guy? Let's hope he sticks to pizza and not a burning bed sort of scenario.

    I was sort of surprised you were sermonizing to me; thought it was very different for you and then you really surprised me!

    You do have a way with telling a story...

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  27. Ooo, nice twist ending! Really liked this, Tony. Well done!

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  28. Here I am expecting some sort of gay-themed story. I really was expecting the pastor to be passed out next to him. Reading too much news, apparently. This worked much better. What happens next?

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  29. I was wondering where you were going with that. Good pay off. Very creepy and cool!

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  30. Of all the potential twists my mind was contemplating, ransoming his daughter was not there! Well played, Sir, well played.

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  31. Thanks for the weekend reads, guys. It looks like you all were ready for almost any kind of an ending except the one I gave you.

    That makes me very, very happy.

    8-)

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  32. Hey I'm from the south and I think you did a good job with the dialect. Enjoyed it, and I have to say I didn't need the ending to get creeped out, cause those criminals who take people's money in the name of religion are about as bad as you get in my mind. Also, for some reason as I was reading I couldn't get this out of my head:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCDdnOBNZLI

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  33. Nicely done! I was wondering where the heck you were going with this one, but I really didn't see that coming. Really, really well told.

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