I’ve lived in North Miami for 56 of my 61 years. Boy, I sure am glad they invented television if you know what I mean. There was a Methodist church two blocks away from the house in which I used to live. I always thought of visiting someday as I passed going to the bar two blocks the other way. This is the setting for this moving recollection.

I am part of a dwindling breed these days. Old Yankee Presbyterians. Now the Methodists aren’t too bad except that they pray too loud and too long. The Baptists are not too bad either except they sing too loud and too much and getting baptized there is like a trip to Sea World if you know what I mean. I mean, a little sprinkle is sufficient without all the drama, right? Plus both of these denominations always went beyond one hour and how are you supposed to grab that extra six-pack since you had to wait till one o’clock to buy it and get home for the football game at one o’clock? I mean, there is the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Football and you have to have your priorities in the correct order, right?

It was 1977 or so and an ad appeared in the paper saying that President Carter would be attending this Methodist church in two weeks. Whoa! Here in North Miami, a suburb of Miami of only 40,000? I made plans for that, for sure.

Normally the pews were about 30% occupied but the week of the event, cars blocked the streets for a radius of six blocks. A great amount of people had to stand outside, but they had speakers set up.

Then the minister appeared. He informed us that he regretted President Carter could not make it but that he had arranged for a back-up speaker. Who could this important replacement be, the people wondered? Then the minister adjusted his tie, adjusted the microphone and in ramrod straight, defiant dignity informed us that the replacement speaker would be himself in behalf of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Dead silence at first, but anger and indignation began to rumble and resonate. We had all been duped and tricked by this sly old weasel that pretended to be an honest man and minister! Some began to leave and scornful indignant comments were hurled at the minister. His voiced now echoed with powerful authority as he bellowed “You would rise from your bed to hear a man of this world, but cannot do so to hear from the Savior? You would come to hear the political news, but not the GOOD NEWS?” The people halted. They sat back down with heads bowed in shame. I was so overtaken I could not absorb the sermon. But I learned a lesson in faith because the message came from Heaven, not Washington, on the day I did not get to see the President.