“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there-at, because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (KJV Matthew 17:13-14).
Gramp’s father was a “preacher.” The Right Reverend A. Jordan Smith, were his name and his “entitlements”. But, there are those who say that Reverend A. Jordan Smith was what some discourteously call, a “Jackleg” preacher! The term “jackleg,”according to Merriam-Webster is: “a person characterized by unscrupulousness, dishonesty, or lack of professional standards <a jackleg lawyer> b: lacking skill or training: amateur <a jackleg carpenter>”. However, the Right Reverend A. Jordan Smith, by all accounts, was a decent and upstanding gentleman landholder, husband, and father. A man without a dishonest bone in his tall, sturdy frame. Obviously, the term “jackleg,” in Great-Grandpa Jordan’s case, referred solely to his lack of “formal” training as a minister.
Great-Grandpa Jordan cut a striking image; sturdy of frame; stylishly suited, booted, and hatted. His stern, brown visage was preceded, in his coming, by a thick, black, walrus-styled moustache. His hands, large and strong, articulated at the end of a pair of equally impressive arms. He was a gentleman, but a gentleman who was accustomed to the hard work of farm life and, he was a preacher; jackleg or not!
In those days and to some degree “these days”, in order to be a preacher, one had to be “called” to preach. That meant that God himself had caused some dramatic event to happen in the subject’s life which, to him, was a sure sign that he was to go forth and spread the Gospel. Most men experiencing this event of being “called” (e.g. being struck or nearly struck by lightning) would be compelled to swoon.
Some would remain in a stuporous, catatonic, or near-catatonic state for hours; sometimes only awakening when their own shoe was waved in front of their noses. During this comatose condition, God would speak to the subject in a vision; giving him his “charge”! Upon awakening, the stunned man would have morphed into a “righteous” man whom, henceforth, was in the “soul-saving business”. Who’s to say that Jordan Smith, farmer of land, had not been so converted into the Right Reverend A. Jordan Smith, farmer for God? Sowing the seeds of faith amongst the wayward ilk.
One Sunday, according to Gramp, Reverend Smith preached a sermon from the text at the beginning of this story. The following is the “gist “of that sermon; sans the perfunctory introduction, song, prayer, and other “points of order”:
“Good Christians must travel the narrow road, for wide is the road to destruction” he began. “There are all kinds of sinners on the wide road. These sinners NEED a wide road” he bellowed as his large hand thrust skyward, emphasizing the word “need”. It takes a WIDE road for a LIAR, cause when he tells a lie on this side of the road!” his voice becoming more strident, as he stepped to the side of an imaginary wide road. “He got to ruuuunnnnn over to the other side of the road to back up the lie he just told!” he continued, punctuating his statement with a loud, gravelly, “HA!” as he quickly trotted to the other side of the imaginary road; hand to his mouth as if whispering some juicy bit of gossip into an eagerly waiting ear.
“It takes a wide road for a gambler!” he informed the congregation emphatically. “Because when he throw his dice on one side of the road, he’s got to ruuuunnnn over to the other side of the road so he can throw them dice again, HA!” he exclaimed as he enacted the process of shaking and tossing dice, then trotting over to the other side of the “road”.
By this time, the congregation was “chunking back” at the Reverend. In other words, they were giving him all of the Amen and Hallelujah shouts he needed to “bring down his Helper” and fill him with Holy Spirit. One could almost see said Holy Spirit descending from the rafters of the old church building like a feathery veil of warm mist.
Sorry congregants, but I’ll have to stop right here. However, I invite you to come and join us next Friday to hear the rest of “The Sermon” by The Right Reverend A. Jordan Smith!