The road ahead goes up a hill. On top I see a building with spires, walls, and towers. On the other side a cliff is overlooking the ocean. I cannot see the ocean from where I am. In the afternoon, waves smash against the rocks. In the morning the water is calm. At night I shout into the wind “Three foggy mornings and one rainy day will rot the best Birch fence a man can build.”
I wonder if they need help gathering hay. They probably have the wagons they need. The oxen are slow. It is almost too far, but since I am here I will go.
The door on the side is the one most people use. It is thick oak. The hinges are enormous. The end of each one curls back in two pieces. Whoever made them took the time to hammer them smooth.
No one is outside. I look around imagining long ago when all this was defended against bands of marauders or whoever wanted to take it by force. They are all dead by now. At the center of the door is a heavy knocker. I raise it, and let it fall several times. It makes a definite noise. I wait a long time, step back, and look at windows near and far. I shout to make myself known. It cannot be that no one is inside, and that I have come all this way for nothing.
Then I hear the latch on the other side of the door, and it opens. It is massive indeed. A tidy person with his sleeves rolled up appears. He looks behind me at the animals, and in a bothered way asks what business I have there.
I say the haying work below is done, and would another wagon be needed up here? He says the only one who knows, the one in charge of the fields, left in the morning to hear the bishop speak, and will be back that day.
The sun is getting low. Soon I must start back, but I ask if I may wait. Looking quickly at my shoes he says there is hot soup on the stove, and there is enough for me. He is more than kind. I turn and look at my animals. Then I go inside.
There is a wonderful smell that is not from one kind of food. It is from all the days, and what is there. There is an oak floor polished by years of use, and a kettle on the stove. Beside the stove is a fireplace. The fire has gone unattended for some time. Smoke from smoldering pieces of wood trail up the chimney.
The ceiling is high. Evenly spaced hewn beams support wide planks. They are so square and smooth they could have been cut by machine. On the side of the kitchen where I am standing it opens into another room. A long table in the middle is where people who work there, and live there eat. Across the kitchen near the stove there is a closed door that leads to a hallway that servant’s use that leads to another room that servant’s use that leads to the magnificent dining room where the beautiful people eat. He puts a tray on a large table in front of the stove where a person stands to fix food. Everything is in drawers, in cabinets, or on shelves. He walks with the loaded tray toward a table between us where we sit. He says about the quiet that the others are gone for the day.
“They left early this morning,” he says. “They left with the one you want to see. The day the bishop is here, that is the day they all leave.”
“What about you,” I say?
After swallowing from his cup he says, “Someone has to be here. Besides, I heard it all. I do not think I could hear it today. I hope God understands.”
“What does the bishop talk about,” I ask?
He answers, “I suppose the bishop will say all the things bishops say in their own eloquent way. Did you know we are sinners dangling by a thread over the fire of an angry God, and that it is better to give than receive?” Then he stops himself. “Oh dear, I better be careful. When was the last time they burned someone at the stake?” Then he asks me what I am about, and what I say.
I tell him I have a fine wagon with a strong team that can haul a much heavier load than hay. I say the work nearby is done, and because it is that time of year if nothing else I will haul hay.
He asks if the wagon and animals are mine. I say I recently agreed to buy them, but it will take some time. I say I haul mostly heavy things. He asks where I live, and I say beyond the village.
I ask if he has lived here long.
“Yes.” he says, “I am the finest indentured servant you will probably ever see. I was born here. It is my sincerest hope that I die here as did my father and mother. Just the thought of toiling with suffering humanity is unbearable. Everything is provided in this place. True, I have nothing, but I find no difficulty in having nothing. Sometimes I wonder if I have any ambition. Sometimes I wonder if we’re born, live painlessly, and die. Have we lived?”
I tell him it might seem strange to say, but I have wondered that same thing only in some other way. Silence prevails. Then I say, “In one way or another all of us strive to avoid pain, and if we are successful what do we put in its place? Pain of another sort? Pain that makes us feel alive? Pain that has a purpose? Pain of our own choosing? The pain I chose comes from living intensely with God. There was pain at first. That cannot be denied, but now it is gone. It came from being alone in my understanding of God, and there were other things. Once I wanted to jump in the hayloft with a searing milkmaid, pail and all. I did not, not entirely to keep the anger of God from blazing against me, but because that One, our maker says a person who listens and hears will have a happy life. That One knows human nature like no other. When I denied myself what, to me, was a major event because it conflicted with a Godly way of life at first it was painful, but time after time when I realized what was happening I became certain something was there. What happened is my life improved, and as it did the pain disappeared. My own selfish desire to do something detestable ceased.”
I lean toward him and quietly say “My understanding of God did not come from anything a bishop said. I have an English language Bible, and very little of what they say comes from there.”
“You better not be caught dead with that book,” He says. “Somebody might think you are trying to start something.”
We both know it is against the law to own or have a Bible. I say it is well hidden. I say my wife would not tell anyone where it is although she thinks my preoccupation with God is a dangerous fantasy of some kind.
“What about me,” He says, “I know you have it. Why did you tell me?”
“This is the conversation we are having, but if you are not the sort you seem to be, unlike you, I will die in the village square.”
“And where will I die,” he asks?
“Probably in a place of your own choosing,” I say.
“What is in the Bible that is so different from what we have heard,” he asks.
“It is a communication from God that deals with the past, present, and future of this earth. It is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the father of Jesus Christ. The name of that God is Jehovah.
“Says who?” he asks.
“Says God, through his prophets. When the time is right for God everyone will know that name.”
“None of the Bible will ever be proven false,” I say, “and sooner or later the rest of it will come true. A person is moved to translate it into a language a common man can read. Why does he take that risk? For his effort authorities will publicly kill him. The Bible survives like nothing else. It has backing beyond what is normal. It has a life of it’s own.”
He asks, “The rest of it that will come true, what is that? Really now, how can anyone in all seriousness say they know what the future will be?”
“God is not anyone,” I say. “But, if by anyone you mean one of us muddling around this earth we know only as much about the future as God wants us to know.”
I tell him, “Many say they can tell what lies ahead of a person. Soothsayers, astrologers, and people who glare into crystal balls are a few of them. In the Bible, God does say that to avoid ruin stay away from what they do. Their power comes not from God, but from creatures opposed to God. It may sound far fetched to say, but once these spirit forces invade a victim an entrenchment begins with the singular purpose of keeping that poor sole away from God. That is the equivalent of ruination, because salvation belongs only to God.”
“And what is it we are to know about the future?”
“God will rule the earth. That is the future,” I say, “and anyone who does not like it will not be here. It is that simple. The wicked will be so much dust. The villainous character and everyone not doing the will of God will be gone. That event is referred to in the Bible several times as a ‘new heavens and a new earth.’ Quite a few times it is called ‘the great day of Jehovah,’ and once it is referred to as ‘Armageddon’. Take your pick.
“What about the ones on the other side of the world,” he asks, “the ones who know nothing about the God of the Bible?”
“There is no injustice in God,” I say. “The Bible says there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. Christ will decide who has a good heart. Those who are resurrected have the free choice to be one of God’s people or not to be one of them. We all make that choice at one time or another. The ones who are not one of God’s people or chose not to be one will be destroyed. That is what the Bible says.”
“That makes the choice rather obvious,” he says. “What fool who is here after Armageddon, and is aware of the past would choose to be destroyed? However, I must admit living forever on earth would take some major adjustment.”
“You assume living on the earth will be the same as it is now. Nothing will be the same except your consciousness. Early in the Bible the nation of Israel is wandering around in the wilderness. They are God’s people. Moses, their leader selected by God, speaks to God and says the people are hungry and have nothing to eat. After that every morning a food called Manna is on the ground around their camp. A few years earlier those same people saw the parting of the Red Sea. You would think if there was any doubt in anyone’s mind about God, about God being in control of the situation it would have vanished the day food fell out of the sky. After that day you would think everyone in camp would be a true believer, but a short while later those people were turning their back on the One who brought them out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and gave them food. Likewise, people on the other side of Armageddon, people aware of their past, will end up turning their back on God.”
“After Armageddon what happens,” he asks?
“God’s people are from all nations, tribes, people, and tongues. God’s promise to those people is that the way he is setting things up this time will last to time indefinite.
“Is God a he?”
“God is said to be a he in the Bible. The Bible also says all people are made in God’s image. Several times it talks about something as seen in God’s eyes. That may or may not be exactly the way it is, but those words make our ability to understand what God wants us to understand within our grasp. There are parts of the Bible no person can explain right now. One of God’s prophets writes these words from God describing the future: ‘The wolf and the lamb themselves will feed as one, and the lion will eat straw just like the bull; and as for the serpent, his food will be dust. They will do no harm, or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain, says Jehovah.’ If that is seen as exactly the way it is, or as a comparison of the way it will be it makes no difference to understanding that things will be very different. Lions do not have the teeth for chewing straw. We can no more understand the intricate details than a dog can add two and two. There will be no want, not just by the ones sitting pretty, but by absolutely everyone. That is what Jehovah says.”
“Why do you keep saying Jehovah,” He asks?
“It is the name of God. In ancient Hebrew the name of God is Yahweh. Today in English it is Jehovah. Any god is god. It could be a plug nickel or a person.
“What is a plug nickel,” he says?
“It is a metal coin made worthless by someone who removes most of the metal in the center by putting a hole in it with a projectile triggered from a hand held device called a gun. I am getting way ahead of myself, but while on the subject let me add that several hundred years from now in the same land where people will talk about plug nickels there will be a small group of people called Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their numbers will grow quickly and they will cover the inhabited earth with the Bible message. Then the end will come.”
“The end of what,” he says?
“The end of this system of things. No longer will the unrighteous swallow up the righteous. No longer will there be sickness and death. ‘The former things have passed away’ is what it says.”
“Do you really believe that?” Amazed, he is certain I am crazy. He stands up, and without moving beyond his chair, shouting he asks, “Does all you say serve merely to answer questions?”
“No,” I say in a tired way. I know what he thinks. “The truth is from God. It is bigger than both of us.” He sits down. I am reminded of something, and tell him. “There is a story in the Bible about a king who is given a scroll from Jehovah. Call him God if God’s name is an obstacle for you. The king does not like what it says so he burns the scrolls. It is his idea that doing so will stop what it says. That was stupid.”
“The Egyptian Pharaoh and all the ones with bows and arrows who charged into the Red Sea against whoever parted all that water were also stupid. In the Bible the word stupid does not mean someone with little intelligence or someone without position among people. It means someone who does not know the work of Jehovah when it is in front of their face.”
“Our master would burn the scrolls,” he says. A grin of fondness comes across his face. Then, coming back to where we are he says, “He has been gone for almost a year. What he would say is they are so much hogwash. That is what he would say.”
I reply, “People with wherewithal have much difficulty grasping the Bible message. They are accustom to relying on their own understanding. If doing things their own way delivers what they want here and now what good have they done if it also delivers to them death.
In early Bible times God’s people were slaves in Egypt. People attracted to Christ are seldom nobles or gentry folk. Christ describes a crowd of people as skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd. People who are attracted to the Bible message are very ordinary people.
“What is the Bible message,” he asks?
“Repent, because the kingdom of God has drawn near.”
“The kingdom of God has drawn near for many lifetimes. Why should I believe it now,” he asks?
“When Christ was on earth his closest followers asked him when the end will come, and Christ said nobody knows, not him, or the angels in heaven, but only the Father Jehovah. A person loyal to God may die first, but the kingdom of God is still near for that person. A person’s death for a thousand years is one night’s sleep if God remembers them. The Bible says many times many ways be ready, stay awake, and endure. That is because nothing a human does can compare with what God can do. Our struggles are small and meaningless in light of what really is.”
“Why should I repent,” he asks? “I have done nothing wrong.”
“You should repent because God is about to pull the plug on this old system of things,” I say.
“Plug,” he asks?
“Think of it as a drain plug in a water trough full of putrid water.”
“I have not done anything wrong. Should I feel guilty just so God can remove the guilt?”
“That would be a start,” I say. “Repenting is a posture, a way of life, not something to be taken lightly. Repenting is seeking forgiveness, but not all about guilt. It is a forgone conclusion that you, by yourself, are not right. Feeling guilty is futile. If you look at it that way you were guilty of being born. At this point there is absolutely nothing you can do to change what is. You may dress up and present yourself proudly in front of people, but to God you are naked. There is nothing grandiose about you, or any other human being.”
“In the Bible there is an account of a man watching a woman bathe on a roof top. They end up having a sexual relationship. The woman’s husband is in the army. The man, because of his high position, has the woman’s husband sent into battle where he is killed. A messenger from God goes to the man saying God knows everything. There is nothing casual about the man when he seeks forgiveness. That is somebody who did something wrong.”
“Honestly saying to God you are the miserable man that you are is acknowledging the truth of the matter. Some find that easier to do than others. Some never do. The very thought of it is contrary to most thought. Being humble is part of being with God. Benefiting yourself is what it is. Improve in God’s eyes and there comes a freedom and power. It does not win contests or battles. It does not help get things, or earn money. What it does is make big problems small.”
“How will God rule? People burn people to death and say they are doing it in God’s name. How will God keep matters straight?”
“Rule by God does not mean priests and clergy rule. It means God will rule the earth his way. Everyone here, by the very fact they are here, will recognize God’s headship and authority as did Moses. If God’s appointed leader or leaders get self-righteous God himself will remove them. That is what happened when Moses took the credit for getting water from a rock.”
“God will rule the earth, and that rule will be perfect in every sense. After all, this place called earth and everything on it belongs to God. That makes God the rightful ruler.”
“If the earth belongs to God,” he says, “why is there so much havoc? Why is death something we have to reckon with all the time?”
“The Bible explains why wickedness and suffering abound. It says the ruler of this world is Satan, not God. That is why there is so much turmoil. It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose not to do what God told them. It has been that way to this day. The result is irrefutable man has dominated man to his injury. That is how the Bible describes the situation, and it will be that way until God takes over. Satan would have us believe we can do without God. By the time Armageddon hits it will be plain to see man cannot rule man. No bishop I ever heard talks about God’s purpose the way it does in the Bible.”
“What is God’s purpose?”
“That those who want to be saved be saved.”
“That is not different. Saved from what?”
“Satan’s grip, and the wrath of Jehovah at Armageddon. The reason makes sense in the Bible. That is the difference. The truth makes sense. When that sinks in physical needs cease to be needs. I have to show you something”. I spring from my chair and return out of breath with the English language Bible. It was hidden in the wagon. His elbows are folded on the table, and the cup he pushes to the side.
Flipping pages I find the place. “Look what Christ said about physical needs. For me this is true.” I read, “‘Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing? Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seeds or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are? Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span? Also, on the matter of clothing, why are you anxious? Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they are growing; they do not toil, nor do they spin; but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith? So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For these all are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you. So never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness.'”
“What do you think about that,” I ask? We both sit back in our chairs. The Bible stays open on the table.
“Where did you learn to read?”
I have to think where it was. Then I tell him, “At Cincinnati Day School.” A bewildered expression comes across his face. He is about to ask another question. I interrupt to say I was kicked out in the sixth grade, and that it is a long story not worth repeating. Once again, I ask him, “What do you make of that?”
“It sounds good,” he says, “but in practice does it mean forget the leak in the roof, God will get it done? Does it mean if God is on my side I can spend the afternoon in a field of luxurious clover hay smelling the blossoms? Does the leak get fixed? Is that what it means?”
“You get up on the roof to fix the leak,” I say. “It is something you have to do. The roof has a steep pitch. The ladder may be shorter than you would like. Going from it onto the roof might be treacherous. In a situation like that you might say something clumsy like ‘please God, don’t fail me now.’ You are a beginner with God, but you called on God. Assuming you’re not detestable to God, God might see you through. Even a casual understanding of God might have momentary results, but a long lasting, strong relationship, not one that is simply spur of the moment, comes from loving God, and that comes most easily with an accurate Bible understanding. It is hard to love something you do not understand.”
“On the roof you have communicated with God in your own feeble way, and maybe God heard you that time. There is nothing to say he did not. You do not slip. Now, the real test of your faith comes later as you fall asleep, do you want to think you would not have slipped anyway?”
“Think of this. If we have been faithful to Jehovah and we slip and fall do we curse God and die.” These are things that constantly went through my mind when I started out, but soon there was no question, if we fall or do not fall God is there. It is foolish to question if God is there.”
“Can God see through walls,” he asks? “Does God know about me?”
“None of us need a letter of introduction to get the attention of the creator of the Universe. That in itself is amazing. The Bible says God knows how many hairs are on our head. People who think they are lost in a sea of humanity are making a terrible mistake if they imagine there is something God cannot do including know how many hairs are on our head. God’s power is limitless. The Bible plainly says, at least twice, “With God all things are possible.”
I say to him, “If you fall off the roof, or if something about something does not go the way you would like understand accidents still happen to faithful Christians. There is a story in the Bible about how Christ is standing within sight of a tower that falls over killing eighteen people. Someone with Christ asked him ‘what is their sin?’ Christ answers that their sin is no more or less than anyone else’s, and that they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also understand what you think should happen, might not be what should happen. The Bible says trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. A little example of this is the last day at work before going on a long trip I say to a fellow worker, ‘if all goes well I will see you in two weeks.’ That is my understanding. Maybe if things go well I will see him tomorrow.”
“Is that blind faith,” he asks? Is everything that happens meant to happen?”
“No, it is not like that. Trust in God goes far beyond what happens. After Christ’s resurrection Thomas finally had to admit to himself that it was Christ who was standing in front of him. Christ then said to all those present, ‘Happy are those who do not see and yet believe.'”
“Those who believe, trust, and that comes easily to those who make the effort to learn about God. They learn about God. They trust in God, and with that comes God’s help. By their effort they help themselves. At that point a person does not need to see God to know God is real. In the beginning there is something like blind faith, but it does not last very long. A relationship with God began for me when I started intently striving after, what the Bible calls, ‘the more important things.’ A strong relationship involves love. God’s love is always there, but it is like tapping maple trees. It just does not happen. It is there for those who know how.”
“Even the first humans,” I tell him, “were not made to love God like programmed robots. If they did it would not be love.”
“Like what,” he asks?
“By instinct,” I say. “It is by free choice we side with God. That is the way God wants it to be. Following God will happen most completely when it is based on love. Obey out of love. At first some healthy fear comes with knowledge of God. God is more powerful than anything we will ever know. The fear might get us going, but it is the love that keeps us going.”
“Obeying sounds childish. Do adults obey God?”
“If they are smart they do. A parent might tell a child not to touch a hot stove or play near a cliff. The child does not know the reason, but obeys out of trust. A lot of it has to do with trust. I obey God’s directions in the Bible, because I trust God. The trouble is people want to think they, as adults, are able to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. All you have to do is look around to see the effect of everyone doing what they think is right. Then there are people who say they speak for God, but really it is for them. Nobody knows the difference. We think the injustice they do comes from God. Christ has some choice words for people who mislead others. It is Satan’s design that things are the way they are. There is much misinformation out there. Suffering humanity is proof, and suffering humanity is the victim. The Bible would stay in Latin if certain people had their way. There are well meaning people, good-hearted people who swallow dogma handed down from one generation to the next. The situation will not change until God changes it.”
“Is dogma a quadruped,” he asks?
“No,” I say. “This kind of dogma is a religious teaching that is passed from one generation to the next so many times that where it began becomes irrelevant.”
“There are false Christian religious dogmas that extend far past this time. Many are just plain not true. One is the idea that God the father, God the son, and the Holy Ghost are one, and the other is the idea that the soul is immortal. Neither has any Scriptural basis, and that leaves only one other source, people.”
“Numerous times Christ makes definite distinctions between himself and Almighty God. One time he says, ‘The Father is greater than I am’. In prayer to his Father shortly before his arrest and death Christ prays to Almighty God, ‘Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me,’ and then he says, ‘…not what I want, but what you want.’ One of the Bible writers writes that Christ, ‘…gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.’ A person is not apt to develop a strong relationship with God when there are untrue dogmas that can neither be sensibly explained nor understood. The one that says the soul never dies; that it goes straight away to heaven or to eternal torment in hell is a lie. The Bible says the wages sin pays is death not eternal torment. If the soul never dies in the first place why is there a need for a resurrection? The bible says, ‘the dead are conscious of nothing at all,’ and that the ones he (Jesus Christ) chooses will have their life restored by means of a resurrection on earth that occurs after Armageddon.”
“What about heaven?”
“A 144,000 are co-rulers with Christ in heaven. In the Bible Christ calls them his ‘little flock’. Someday God’s will, will come to earth as it is in heaven. Then, those resurrected to a life here on earth will be what Christ calls his ‘other sheep.’ There will be one flock with one shepherd.”
“Now that is different. Do you honestly believe all these years there has been a grand conspiracy afoot to suppress this information? It would involve all kinds of people.”
“The Bible says, ‘The one called Devil and Satan is misleading the entire inhabited earth.’ The conspiracy is not a conspiracy at all, but involves one.”
“Does it say why people die over opinions? You read it.”
“The Bible tells the story of mankind’s involvement with God. It says, ‘All Scripture is inspired by God’. What that means is all we need to know is in there. Once, one time, the Bible personifies the Holy Ghost. An inspection of the Scriptures shows the Holy Ghost is not a person, but that does not stop people from being told otherwise, or having an opinion otherwise, or insisting otherwise.”
“Why does an all knowing God leave details open to argument? People are always convinced of one thing or another. People kill people over details like that,” he says.
“Christ reduced more than 600 details down to two principals. When the Bible story begins one group of people are God’s people. They revere the true God. Jehovah God declares to them early in the story that from them a ‘seed’ will come who will give back what Adam and Eve lost: a paradise earth free from sickness and death. God gives those people more than 600 laws that govern what they are to do and not do. It is called the Law. As time goes by the people in charge of administering the Law bolster their own importance by adding laws onto the laws. When the promised seed, Christ, comes along he lives according the Law, but condemns the religious leaders for making the Law burdensome any petty.”
“Here is what Christ told them, ‘You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘this people honors me with their lips yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach the commands of men as doctrines.'”
“He also told them that they resemble white washed graves. I read him the place where Christ says, ‘…white washed graves that outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every sort of uncleanness. In that way you also, outwardly indeed appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’”
“What he told just plain folks is something else entirely. He said, ‘Come to me all you who are toiling and loaded down and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.’ Christ said he replaced the law. He replaced it with his very person. He replaced the Law with two principals. That you love Jehovah God with all your heart, mind and soul, and that you love your neighbor as yourself. Christ said all the Law and the prophets were about those two principals.”
“So why do the people in power ignore what Christ said? They can read.”
“It is the same situation now as in Christ’s day. Back then people were aware the Messiah would come. Their thinking was the Messiah would save them from Roman domination. Actually, if Christ wanted he could do that and a whole lot more.”
“When Christ did come all prophecies pointed to him as the Messiah. There is a conversation between two religious leaders that reveal why people had Christ executed and why he is ignored now. One says to the other, ‘If we let him alone this way they will all put faith in him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ They did not want to loose their job. If the Messiah got there they would be out of work. Now it has become tradition. There is always a personal reason.”
“Christ called them hypocrites many times, and one time Christ called them, ‘Blind guides who strain out the gnat, but gulp down the camel.’ They were more concerned about the letter of the Law than about what it all meant.”
“People are concerned about details so much,” he says “They burn people alive to prove it. The people who burn them are just like the religious leaders around Christ.”
“Yes, but a Bible based understanding of details make having a first hand knowledge of God a whole lot easier. Being a footstep follower of Christ is what matters.”
“Why does it matter so much,” he asks? Should we drop everything today and live for what is not here? Is God that radical?
“Yes and no,” I answer. Jesus Christ put out some radical thoughts. He was radical. But, if by radical you mean politically radical Christ was not that way. In Bible times Christ fled when people tried to make him a king. Another time he said my kingdom is no part of this world. In the Bible Christ’s followers are told to obey government authorities, and if a government adversely effects another person’s…”
“They are back. Hear them,” he says? “They took two coaches and horses.” He tells me to put the Bible in my shirt. He gets up to inspect the soup, and says, “They will come in here to eat.” A little nervous I stand up to see who is coming. Someone wiping his feet opens the door. When seven or eight people have come inside the last one closes the door.
“Here we are,” says a person among them who appears to be in charge. “Willy and Chandler will be in. They are bedding down the horses.” Looking at me he says, “Is that your team out there. They look well kept. Put them in the barn.” Everyone is taking off their coat, and moving around the kitchen. He tells me to hurry and that Willy will show me where to put them. Once more he says they are good-looking animals.
While we are putting the animals away I say I am looking for work. They talk hurriedly while unfastening buckles and removing this piece of harness or that saddle. We finish, and go inside. The others are sitting in the servant’s dining room. It looks more like stew in their bowls than soup. I see pieces of meat, carrots, onions, and potatoes. It must have been on the bottom of the pot. Our bowls are stacked on the table by the stove. Also bread is there, and so is cheese. On the big white table where the others sit there is wine, cups, spoons, and cloth napkins. When I walk into the room more than anything else, I am trying not to spill what is in my full bowl.
The one who talks the most says to me that they have no need for a rig like mine. Finally I reach my place and sit down. “We have plenty of scythes,” he says. I tell him it has been awhile since I used a scythe. “After it is cut,” he says, “it has to dry. Hopefully it will not rain.”
I thank him for his consideration, and say I have to get home. I will head back in the morning. It will be several days before they stack hay.
Then the one I was talking with earlier says to no one in particular, “What did the bishop have to say on this fine day?”
“He said the bishop of Gloucester is going to be roasted alive.” Just as quickly as it is said the one who said it looks around the table to see who is going to tell him to pipe down. It was on his mind all day, and could not be contained another moment. He sits beside a girl. They are just old enough to be in love. Except for those two lovebirds everyone is exhausted.
“What did he do that is so terrible,” I inquire politely?
The child does not answer. Finally someone else does. “He insists it is lawful for the clergy to marry and he says Christ is not physically present during the Mass. That makes him a heretic.”
Another one says, “Do not breathe a word of this to anyone, but why does a religion need to burn people to enforce its teaching? I swear I do not know.”
“It is Satan’s fault,” I say, and that falls on deaf ears.
Again the child speaks, “Pestilent Popery is gone. Now, woe unto anyone who does not go along with the Pope.”
Another one speaks, “The best thing to do is keep silent about these things until we know what to say.”
“All the bishops may burn each other up as far as I am concerned,” says Chandler, and without pausing he asks to have another piece of cheese.
My newfound friend says to him, “What you have is all you get, and let me tell you, fool, if you keep sounding off like that you might be the first person we know who dies that way.”
“Am I a fool? That is the pot calling the kettle black.”
In a calm mitigating way my friend’s wife says, “Please, it has been a long day. It is so tiring to hear you talk that way.”
About me, he says to the one in charge, “Is there room for him in the bungalow?”
Everyone is finished eating. They get up. I follow someone to where I will sleep. Before I go I tell my friend good-bye. I say I am leaving at dawn. He is busily collecting bowls, and from across the table looks up to wish me well.
The next morning as the others get up they go back to the kitchen. I need to get moving, and go to the barn to harness Horatio and Talemecus. I have to push them to get them to move. They have enjoyed the lodging. On the way out I take them to water. Watching one, then the other with their head lowered over the bucket I realize the wine from the night before has made me thirsty. They stand still while I raise water to my mouth with cupped hands. Outside, I hook them to the wagon and climb up. I sit on an empty thirty-gallon water barrel. Slap of the reins plus the words “come on” and we move on down the road, Horatio, Talemecus, and me.
The air is cold. There will be no more hot days this year.
The road slopes down through the middle of a field of long Timothy grass cut twice that summer. It will be wet from the dew a little longer. I put the wagon break on and leave it on. There is a creek in the distance. On the other side I can see the road goes uphill between fields and turns inland.
In the brightening sky there are ducks going south. They are Blacks, but from here dots in the sky. It will get cold once more.
Sycamore trees mark where the creek is. The creek winds out of low hills in the East and goes to the sea in the West.
Over the top of the hill on the other side a rider appears. His horse is moving at a gallop. No one back there would get a message delivered that way. Could this be the one?
We are closer now. If I did not know horses and riders are two by that sight alone I would think they were one. We will meet in the thicket by the creek.
He is intent with what he is doing. I hope he continues past unaware of me. Then we go behind trees. Before I see him again I am at the creek. He is foreign. I stand up in the wagon. His face is a shadow. The horse gallops. The oxen plow ahead. Quick as can be, without stopping, he lifts his hand, and throws a spear into my body. I fall in the wagon. Soon I am lifeless. The oxen continue to plow ahead, but that is the end of me.