Bill writes: I am a retired retail/engineer who is blessed with the opportunity to lead a Sunday School class. I am eighty two years old.Poverty Triumphant, A Legend
There are no names, there are no dates, and there are scarce places about
this legend of the open Texas prairie and the folks who worshiped God there
in a time of long ago.
The preacher was a circuit rider who came to hold church on a regular if
infrequent schedule. He made his way in the prairie about once a month,
depending on the wind and the weather. Folks could count on his coming and they had long since learned just about what time he would arrive, give or take a day or two.
The preacher's congregation was made up of people who ranched. None of his flock lived in a village or a township or even at a crossroads. They lived on a ranch A lot of them lived in the "great houses" but many of the hands who lived in the sheds came to hear his big baritone voice. Cleansing, eulogies for the passed, cattle tank baptisms, dusty knees from praying on the ground and bodacious prairie barbecue were staples of the day. And sometimes it was two days.
Some of these plains folk were hard drinkers and some chewed. But not when the preacher's horse was inside the corral. Even the few who smoked would stop 'til the preacher left. And he never asked for any of the abstentions, they just did it in his honor.
The preacher was treated with great respect and rewarded with food and a place to rest for himself and his horse. A group always made sure his saddle bags were full when he left and the string on his money pouch would barely close it because of the coin. There was no payroll or passing of the plate. What he needed just seemed to arrive at the right time.
The "gathering" , as it was called, would form up on one of the ranches at about high noon on a day. There was a low key agreement amongst the group as to where each gathering would be held and on what day. It was pretty much done for the next sermon at the present sermon. Sometimes, the chosen day would be early or late and that just meant that the travelers would spend over until the preacher arrived. Or maybe he would wait a day until all had horsed or waggoned into the gathering.
Now and again, the preacher would be called away for awhile and he would always send someone to take his place until he could return. But that alternate person was not just anyone; that alternate had to be special in the eyes and kin of the circuit rider. He would not entrust the pastoral care of his ranchers and hands to just anybody who could make the journey, no sirreee. They had to qualify. He repeatedly told the gathering that he would send a paper sermon if he could not find a good and trusted alternate. The paper sermon never happened, but the
ranchers knew that they were never going to be left without a message.
Everyone knew how he tested the candidates. It was the same test every time and it was judged only by the preacher....no one else. In fact, most of the group had tested themselves by his high standard and had grown from the experience.
The replacement circuit rider had to write a paper for the preacher. It had to be at least one page long and in some cases two pages long. The preacher set the standard for the candidates and it was not negotiable. Even when the replacement was a repeat, the preacher insisted on the written page and he would compare the papers submitted. Once or twice, he let someone speak their belief since they could not read or write.
After being handed a Bible, that was book marked at 2 Corinthians 6:10, along with pencil and paper, he was told to read and follow the instructions at the top of the paper. It said this: "Write what you believe is the meaning of "Poverty Triumphant". It was pass or fail, no in between. And it didn't take long...just long enough for the preacher to read it and then say either "God Speed" or "not this time".
No stories were told about the "not this time" group but the ranchers could all testify to the high faith and service of those who came as replacements. Each one was good and delivered a Godly and enriching message.
So the story says to us....just what do we know about "Poverty Triumphant"? Can we write one sentence or one paragraph or one page about "Poverty Triumphant"? Maybe we should try. Lots of prairie ranchers and hands did just that awhile back.
The Bible reference is: 2nd Corinthians 6:10
(© 2012 Bill Fontaine – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)