Extreme Faith in a Small Town

It’s days like today that make me realize how much of a small town woman I really am. Today was “Miracle Sunday” at the Baptist Church I’ve attended off and on for over 4 years. It’s the same church I had problems with and it’s the same church with which I gladly resolved my problems recently. Today was the culmination of a campaign to raise funds to replenish a building endowment established by a long-time and now deceased member of the church. The fund was intended for renovating the Sunday School space, but had to be used for operating expenses. The woman in whose name the fund was established is legend here and the finance committee dreamed up Miracle Sunday to honor her memory by keeping the fund flush. Like me, the pastor was somewhat lacking in faith and a pessimist because when we discussed it, we both thought the event would be great spiritually. We were sure that the congregation would never be able to raise the $25,000 needed to bring the endowment up to speed.

Today’s sermon text however seemed to hit a nerve in all of us:

Mark 9: 14When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19“O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23” ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Well, like all people of little faith and like the boy’s father, I was suspicious of a “miracle.” I was wrong. Today I attended Sunday school with loving folks who genuinely care about each other. They encourage me and show me what faith really means in a world that thrives on criticism and insults and how much dirt can be gotten about this or that political candidate. Today I was blessed beyond measure by hymn singing, prayers, a special collection received, and then a luncheon following worship. At the end of it, amid tears and prayers, and good food and company, it was announced that $25,570 had been raised! O me of little faith. It was an overwhelmingly generous gesture by folks, some of whom came especially for this event. We saw people that hadn’t been there in years. The overall atmosphere was so full of love, I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it.

Sundays like these are why I believe in small town America. Despite being despised by large city dwellers; despite being patronized by political candidates; despite all the bad press and stereotypes wrought by those who know nothing about what really goes on in these small town churches, people still go to church, love, laugh, eat together, and form communities that work. It’s not only possible, it’s done everywhere there are people of faith. I was proud. I drove home full of joy and humbled beyond measure. It restored my faith in what I had allowed myself to become jaded against the most. Blessings.