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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)

TITLE: Vine Of Life
By Noreen Ophoff


Pastor Henry Raymonds led the procession down the center aisle, of the newly rebuilt St. Jacob’s Church in Merryhill, the choir singing “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”. Entwined through his fingers were the brass chain links of the incense holder. With his strong right hand he swung the incense up then up higher until the fragrant smoke enveloped the whole congregation.

Sorrow still burned in hearts at the former church building that had only stood atop the high hill for seven years. Just eight months ago, in March, a vicious tornado raged here, knocking down every brick wall, ripping the dark pews from their bolts in the floor, tossing them as lightly as popcorn into apple orchards and hayfields nearby.

Today was solemn, but joyous. The Bishop, clothed in vestments of red and purple, walked behind the long double lines of altar boys and girls, their black cassocks and white surpluses ironed into points like drifts of snow.

To the left of the white marble altar, as we faced it, there was an item draped in a tan canvas. We knew it was something Mr. Harold Matthews had worked on for the sanctuary, since the church decided to rebuild on the old foundation of the tornado-torn church.
Mr. Matthews fairly danced in the excitement of the unveiling to happen in a few minutes.

Pastor Henry and Bishop Benedict walked up the stone steps and took seats on the gleaming platform. The people were asked to be seated. Harold came forward, took a microphone and explained, “In our church our pastor sometimes talks about the Body of the Church and each of us being a part. What he means is, we each have a place, talents to use, to build up the church. My mother, now, many of you know Eunice, she’s a mouth, in the Body of the Church. If there’s something needs to be said, she’ll say it.” Chuckles and quiet laughter spread through the church as members agreed that was certainly true.

Harold continued, “Pastor Henry, he’s a mouth too, because he brings us the Word of God. My brother, Dan, he’s feet, because every charitable cause that has folks collecting pledges for how far they walk, Dan will walk. But me, I’m hands. God gave me this gift and sometimes I see things in ordinary wood, other people don’t realize is even there. When that horrible tornado ripped through our church, and destroyed so many of the homes around here too, I had to do something to bring beauty out of the destruction.”

At that moment Harold walked to the canvas, pulling a cord so the fabric fell in a puddle on the floor. Revealed was a wooden sculpture of an intricate vine. Harold defined the piece, “This is the vine Jesus described Himself to be, or, what I think our Lord might have had in mind.”

Each member of the parish sat at the edge of the seats, looking to the sculpture.

Harold continued, “The vine is Jesus, because He said He is the vine and we are the branches. You’ll find yourself within the piece. There are little leaves and tendrils reaching out at every crook. Some of us are leaves, we aren’t strong enough yet to be branches. God is still shaping us. Some of us are tendrils, raising others up. The Vine is Jesus, rooted in the foundation of the inspired Word of His Father, God. We grow by being connected to the strong roots of this foundation, the merciful, everlasting love, of Jesus.”

There was an overall hush in the church. Not even babies cried, and there were many in attendance. Our pastor, visibly moved by Mr. Matthews’ interpretation, rose and went over to the Vine of Life hand carved fixture. He announced, “This rendition by Harold, is our new pulpit. It pleases me to have had Harold deliver our first sermon in our new church. There is nothing more I can ad to his explanation of this work of art. This work from the heart of one of our own. Thanks be to God.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Therese Witkus11/23/07
Lovely story with a wonderful message! I enjoyed your imagery.
Joanne Sher 11/24/07
Love the analogy - just lovely. Caught a couple errors, but nothing that can't be fixed easily. This was very tender. Keep writing.
Laury Hubrich 11/26/07
Very nice analogy with the vine & branches. Good job!