Elijah went through his usual Saturday morning ritual, sitting on the old recliner in the living room, eating a bowl of cereal, and watching cartoons. Afterwards he thought about going for a walk around the neighborhood. It seemed like he had been stuck inside the house forever. He looked out the screen door only to find that there were still reporters hanging around outside and he just didn't feel like dealing with them today.
As he turned back into the living room, he noticed the family Bible on the hutch beside the couch. A closer look showed how old the book was by its worn spine and tattered edges. Elijah sat down and carefully picked it up. Inside of the front cover were cards from the funerals of his great grandparents and from other family members that he either didn't know or had only heard about. Hand written on the title page was a note from someone that he assumed was his great-great grandmother. “The Bible hasn't changed since the last time you read it, but you have!”
“I guess that means I should read it more than once,” Elijah thought as he fingered through the pages. “Of course, I haven't read it at all yet. Never realized how big the Bible really is. Well, I suppose the beginning is the best place to start.”
He turned the page to Genesis chapter one and began to read. It surprised him how little he knew about the events of the creation. Funny how different it was compared to the theory of evolution that he had been studying at school. He was never sure how he felt about evolution. He just figured that God fit in there somehow and learned enough about it to pass the exams.
He had been reading for a while when Becca came bounding down the stairs. Like everyone else, she was hiding out at home and had spent the morning in her room. Elijah said good morning without looking up from the page he was on.
“What’cha reading?” Becca asked.
“About the creation,” replied Elijah vaguely.
“Ooh! That was a hot topic at school last year. Several school board members tried to have these stickers like put inside the biology books. The stickers said something about evolution being a theory and should be studied like one. There was a big debate over it. Even an article in the school paper,” Becca said as she sat down beside her brother to look at the open book.
Becca ignored that Elijah didn’t seem to be paying attention and continued, “I liked what Miss Freed said about the whole debate. One day in class we were talking about Columbus discovering America and how before his time it was believed that the Earth was flat. She said maybe God isn’t as supernatural as we think. Once man thought the world was like flat, but now we know its round. Once man thought that the sun revolved around the Earth, but now we know that’s not the case. She said that God always knew the truth about these things. She thinks God is more like a scientist than a magician, man just hasn’t learned what He knows yet.”
Despite his not looking up, Elijah had indeed been listening. It took a minute for him to digest what Becca had said. Did God use science to create the world instead of supernatural means? Was evolution part of the creation process or did God do it some other way? Either way, he would have to think about it more before he could make up his mind.
Gram, who had been listening in on their conversation from the kitchen, came into the living room. “To be honest, I don’t give much credence to all that evolution stuff. We talked about it a couple of times at the church discussion group I used to go to. I recall that you have to have as much faith in science as you do in God to believe in evolution. Besides, people make too big a deal over it. I don't think it’s as important how we got here as it is why we're here and where we’re going.”
Elijah was enjoying the conversation. This was far more enlightening than just hearing science and religion bash each other. He may not have all the answers or proof for or against evolution, but perhaps he didn’t need to. If God thought it was important He would have included it in the vision. Either way, Gram’s definitely right, why we're here and where we’re going is far more important.
“Speaking of church, have either of you thought about where you want to go?” Gram inquired.
Elijah and Becca looked at each other. “I’m not sure yet,” they said in unison.
“Well let’s discuss it over lunch,” Gram replied. She called upstairs for Dad to come down to eat then walked into the kitchen.
Soon they were all sitting at the kitchen table. Gram said a blessing on the food and asked the questions again. “So, where are we going to church tomorrow?”
“I thought we were going to our old church,” Dad replied, surprised by the question.
“We might. We decided that we would try several churches first and then choose the one we liked the best,” Gram answered. “Becca you mentioned going to a church over by the school.”
“Nah, that's O.K., Gram. I'm good with wherever you guys decide,” Becca replied without looking up from her lunch.
Elijah remembered what Ben said about Becca's fight with Mark Roche at school. He could see a hint of anger on her face. She was still keeping quiet about it. He desperately wanted to tell Becca how much he appreciated her sticking up for him, but he still felt it best to wait for her to bring it up.
Dad chimed back in, “Well, then let's go back to the Methodist church tomorrow and then decide from there.”
“Hold your horses. Elijah still gets his say too,” Gram reprimanded.
“The Methodist church sounds fine, Gram! I haven't really felt strongly about any church in particular,” Elijah answered.
“All right, then. We're all agreed,” Gram said standing and putting her plate in the sink. She started running water to do the dishes. “Services start at ten, so be ready to head out the door by 9:30. With any luck I’ll find a dress that still fits.”
Elijah sat straight up in bed when the alarm went off. He had set it for 8 A.M. and tried going to bed early, but the excitement of going to church kept him from sleeping. Giving up, he finally got out of bed and got back on the “Young Prophet's Society” website. There were plenty of new topics. More than he knew he could read in a single night. He sifted through the titles looking for one to stand out. One post about evolution caught his eye and Elijah read through it. There was lots of talk about “missing links” and assumptions needed for carbon 14 dating, whatever that was. When the screen started to go blurry through his heavy eyelids, he decided to give sleep another chance.
It seemed like he had just fallen asleep when the alarm went off. Despite his physical exhaustion, the exhilaration of going to church prodded him out of bed. He went down stairs still wearing the sweat pants and t-shirt that he had slept in. Gram, as always, was already up and about. She was moving around in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for everyone.
“Come on and grab some pancakes. We don't want your stomach growling while the sermons going on,” Gram smiled and gave him a plate. “Your dad's in the basement ironing his shirt. Becca's in the bathroom and will probably be awhile. Soon as she's out you need to get in there and get ready.”
Elijah smiled and sat down at the table. It looked like the whole house was feeling as anxious about church as he was.
After what seemed like hours, everyone was ready to get into the car. Gram stood by the door. “Alright! Let me give yuns a once over! I want to be sure you look presentable before you step foot outside the house.”
Becca was quick to jump in line. She didn’t want to appear vain, but she did want to show off her favorite dress. “Ahh, you look lovely dear. Like an angel,” Gram’s comment made her blush.
Elijah stepped forward to be inspected. “Well now, don’t you clean up nicely? You look very handsome,” Gram continued brightly. Elijah stepped past her to Becca’s side. Elijah had always just thought of Becca as his bossy sister, but for the first time he realized that she was actually a pretty girl. “You look nice, Beck,” he said with actual sincerity.
Surprised by the complement Becca smiled and said thanks. She nudged him and teased, “And you don’t look totally nerdy for once.”
Next everyone’s attention turned to Dad.
“You too Tommy,” Gram said in her most motherly voice.
Tom strode over before his mother like a little boy in hot water. “Golly gee ma! Do I have to? I washed behind mah ears, honest.”
“I guess you're old enough that I can take your word for it. Now if you'd just keep your tie straight I wouldn't have to worry about you,” she smiled and adjusted the knot.
“You look swell too, mum,” Dad replied.
They both let out a laugh. “Yeah sure! I’m just glad that one of my old Sunday dresses still fit. I’m not a skinny mini anymore,” Gram replied. “Well, let’s get this show on the road.”
“We'll take my car, of course,” Dad smiled at Gram. “Want to make sure we get there in one piece.”
As they walked outside to the car Elijah noticed something peculiar. No one was around. Not a single reporter. No one from the neighborhood! He looked down the driveway, but couldn’t see much past the bushes that stood at the end. Had the fervor over the visions passed this quickly? He had been hoping that the crowd would calm down a little so he could go outside without getting swamped by the press, but surely everyone hadn't lost interest already.
Elijah looked at the rest of the family with bewilderment. Hadn’t anyone else noticed? “Well that was short lived,” he exclaimed as he crawled into the back seat. “I had hoped that the crowd would follow us to church. I was hoping that after church I could retell the vision today. There must be someone that would still like to hear it!”
“Don't get yourself in an uproar yet! Wait 'til we get to the end of the driveway,” Dad exclaimed looking at him through the rear-view mirror.
As they backed into the street, Elijah turned and saw a line of cars through the rear window that stretched on for several blocks. Hundreds of people had turned up to see where the “prophet” was going to church. Gram mumbled something about looking like a funeral procession, but Elijah thought it was great. The angel had said to share the vision with anyone that would listen and after church he hoped to have a huge crowd ready to hear it.
Before long the procession was pulling into the church parking lot. Elijah had always liked the look of the Methodist church. It was well over one hundred years old. The white wooden clapboard siding was contrasted by the bright red doors, the high stained glass windows, and the tall steeple that held the church bell. Its colonial rectangular shape gave it a feel of the pioneer days, when the members of the congregation did the work by hand, without all of the high tech equipment used today. It was a testament to the faith of those who built it.
They were cutting the time close. The drive had taken longer than expected, due to detour around a crowded intersection, where another grouping of cars had assembled to follow the “prophet” to church. Most of the regular attendees were passing through the door shaking hands with the greeters as they pulled into the parking lot. Once parked and out of the car, they saw Pastor Mike Moore rush down the steps and hurry towards them, his white robes rustling around him.
Elijah had always liked Pastor Mike, as he insisted the kids at church call him. Physically he didn't really stand out in a crowd. He was average height and weight, dark brown hair, and brown eyes. But it wasn't how Pastor Mike looked that made him different; there was just something about him that was fun to be around.
Even though they didn’t come to church often, Pastor Mike always remembered Elijah and Becca’s names. He had a special bond with Becca particularly. Pastor Mike had followed in his father and grandfather's footsteps and entered the clergy. Preaching here was his first assignment after graduating from seminary and Becca had been his first baptism. He said he was nervous having seen so many babies burst into tears when the water touched them, but Becca just looked up at him like a little angel. When she was young he used to refer to her as his little cherub.
“Sarah! Tom! Wonderful to see you,” he greeted them with outstretched arms. “Elijah and Rebecca, my how you’ve both grown. Please come with me before we’re trapped out here by the crowd.”
Pastor Mike escorted them up the steps to the chapel and through the large red double doors. It took a moment for their eyes to adjust from the bright outside to the darker hall. The morning sunlight was shining through the stained glass windows that lined the chapel walls, illuminating with color the tiny speaks of dust that floated in the air. Gram had always said that the stained glass was her favorite part of coming to church and for the first time Elijah realized why. It gave the whole place a more holy feel.
As they walked up the aisle to the front of the chapel, Pastor Mike put his hand on Elijah’s shoulder. “Please have a seat in the front pew by my family,” he paused for a moment and looked right into Elijah's eyes. “I am so grateful that you’ve come.”
Pastor Mike began to speak again, but the noise of the crowd flowing into the chapel derailed his train of thought. He looked over the crowd and then turned back to the Abbots. “Excuse me! Let me try to settle everyone and we’ll try to get started.”
He smiled and quickly moved behind the podium. “Brothers and Sisters, Please find a seat as best you can. All my Greeter’s, please do the best you can to help accommodate everyone,” Pastor Mike besseched into the microphone. Soon there was standing room only and it appeared there was still quite a crowd outside of the building.
Pastor Mike motioned for someone in the crowd and soon a man in a similar clergy robe stood beside him. Several minutes passed as the pastor instructed and the man nodded back. Then the man turned and started to make his way back through the crowd.
Pastor Mike again spoke into the microphone. “Brothers and Sisters, we are not used to this large of a crowd. As those of you standing inside can tell, we have more than exceeded our capacity. I have asked the deacons to set up chairs outside and we are turning on the outside speaker system. Please be patient and we will start shortly.” Then, in typical Pastor Mike fashion, he added, “In the meantime, those of you outside might want to give thanks for the good weather.”
The Abbots had managed to make their way through the crowd to the front pew and were able to squeeze in beside Naomi Moore, Pastor Mike's wife, and their three children, the eldest of which was Jonathan. Although Jonathan and Elijah were in the same grade, they barely knew each other. They only shared one class, Science, and Jonathan sat on the other side of the room. Also, Jonathan had attended a Christian elementary school. After entering the public school system in seventh grade, Jonathan continued to hang around with the kids from the Christian school.
Elijah gave a nervous smile and nod to Jonathan and sat down between Gram and his father. Jonathan smiled and nodded back. Pastor Mike had stepped down from the podium and was walking back towards the front pew. He knelt down in front of Elijah and put his hand on his knee.
“Elijah, I don't mean to put you on the spot, but I was hoping that you might recite your vision to the congregation? That is if it's all right with your dad and grandmother?” Pastor Mike asked looking over at the two of them.
“Sure,” replied Elijah as Gram and Dad nodded in affirmation. “The angel said to tell it to everyone.”
“Wonderful,” exclaimed Pastor Mike. “I'll say a few opening words and then turn the time over to you. Don't worry about how long you take. Take as much time as you need.”
As Pastor Mike rose and returned to the podium a feeling of excitement coursed through Elijah. He knew the Lord would open a door for him to speak here. The best part of it was these people were here to listen to the word of God. It wasn't like talking to reporters or at school where there was a mixture of believers and skeptics. These were believers.
“Well, you've been wishing for a crowd to speak to. Looks like you’re gonna to get your wish, buddy,” Dad said as he peered over his shoulder at the mass of people.
As Pastor Mike approached the stand, the people inside instantly grew quiet.
“Good morning brothers and sisters and welcome to all. As you well know, our small town has been abuzz this week with the news of the visions and prophesies covering the Earth. The Lord is once again communing with man.” There were several amen’s from the congregation. “As the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, in the last days He would do a marvelous work and a wonder among His people. That blessed day has come.” More amens. “I had planned to speak about the prophecies during today's sermon, but today the Lord has truly blessed us. Brothers and sisters, we have one of those marvelous works with us here today and he has graciously offered to share his vision with us. Please open your hearts and minds as we hear from a prophet of the Lord. Elijah, would you please come up to the stand?”
Even without looking, Elijah was keenly aware that everyone was staring at him as he stood and walked to the stand. Slowly he made his way up the three steps to the podium. Pastor Mike smiled reassuringly and stepped back to allow Elijah access to the microphone. It wasn't until he turned around and looked over the congregation that he realized just how many people were there.
His face flush red as the temperature in the room seemed to suddenly rise. He tried to wet his dry mouth so he could speak, but his saliva apparently was hiding, as Elijah wanted to be now. This was where he knew he should be, where the Lord wanted him to be, but standing before this large crowd was intimidating. “Remember public speaking techniques from English class,” he thought to himself. “Pick a point on the back wall to look at and not directly at the faces.”
School. It seemed like forever since he was last there. That was his first opportunity to share the vision with a large crowd. At least it seemed like a large crowd then, but it paled in comparison to the huge one before him now. How had he started talking to them? He remembered the feeling he had when the Spirit whispered, “Tell them why you’re here.” The thought of that moment instilled Elijah with confidence. The same feeling swelled in him again. He looked at Gram, smiled, and began to speak.
Time seem to stand still and after what seemed like only a few minutes Elijah had recounted the vision in full. The blood throbbing in his ears died down right after he finished speaking, allowing him to hear the many “Amens” shouted out from the congregation. Seizing the opportunity, Elijah stepped away from the podium to return to his family.
As he began to turn away a voice cried out from the crowd, “What's it all mean?” Several others also shouted similar pleas.
“Is Jesus coming soon?” came a woman's voice from the left.
“What about the rapture?” yelled a man from the back.
Elijah stopped for a moment and let the questions soak in before stepping back to the microphone. Looking across the mass of questioning faces, he wished he could give them more definite answers. “I'm not sure what it all means yet, but I feel it is God's way of telling us that He still loves us. I think He's telling us to get ready for Jesus' return and warning us of some things to expect.”
“What about the rapture? Does this mean it won't happen?” came the man's voice again.
Elijah paused. “What's a rapture?” he thought. He felt his face start to go red, embarrassed at not knowing. His mind went blank; unsure of how to answer a question he knew nothing about.
As the pause grew longer, Elijah looked at Gram, hoping for some inspiration. Gram's look of uncertainty gave him none. Suddenly a man strode forward from the audience cradling a little girl that looked very small and sickly. He fell to his knees in front of the podium and with tear-filled eyes and a shaky voice he pleaded, “Young prophet, please heal my little girl.”
There was complete silence throughout the chapel. Elijah could feel every eye boring into him. Even after the vision he didn’t feel much like a “prophet,” and certainly not someone with the ability to heal the sick. And what if he couldn’t heal? What would that mean? Overwhelmed and unsure if he should try to fulfill the request, Elijah prayed.
“Dear Lord, please guide me! I don’t know what to do. You’ve helped me out so far and I need you now more than ever.” Elijah tried to clear his mind, hoping to hear some divine guidance. Still there was only silence. Only seconds had passed, but to Elijah it felt like an eternity. “Should I try to heal this girl? Am I able? Please tell me something, send me a message,” he thought.
Elijah was startled as he felt a hand touch his shoulder. He turned to see Pastor Mike looking at him with a reassuring smile on his face. Pastor Mike gently moved him to the side and stepped to the podium.
“Brother, please come up and sit on the stand,” Pastor Mike spoke with a voice so comforting it put Elijah at ease. He motioned for the father to come forward. “Brothers and sisters. The good Lord has blessed us greatly this morning with the words He gave through this young man. The Spirit has poured out the gift of prophecy upon Elijah. I have preached the subject of Spiritual gifts many times from this pulpit. Prophecy, healing, the gift of tongues; each one a blessing from God to man. Each gift is separate and having one does not necessarily mean having another. It has been a long week for young Elijah and for all of us. It has rekindled faiths and shaken others. Mankind all over the world is being given a chance to make the choice to follow God.”
“We have heard the vision. Now brothers and sisters, go home and ponder and pray over the things we have heard this morning. When we are ready for more the Lord will send us more and will make sure that we all have an opportunity to hear. Let us pray…”
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