“Blessed are the meek,” Father bellowed, “for they shall purchase the earth.”
He always started out his sermon with some words to the wise – something short and poignant. It had to be short, otherwise the congregation would quickly forget it. The collection dish came around for the fourth time – and the sermon had only started 25 minutes ago! You have to admire tenacity – let alone religious zeal. Unfortunately, I was all out of change and small bills. Thank God they took Visa and Master Card! The collection plates were all ready overflowing with money anyway. When it was full, the congregation was reminded that they could always make a donation over the Internet.
It was a popular time to give to the church, especially since each contribution was for the silent auction that kicked off the sermon and continued to its end. You could purchase just about anything in the church. A stained glass window, or a pulpit, would look good in just about anyone’s den. Those items always went first. Pews were popular for kitchens and patios. They sold well too.
Of course, some of the collected money went towards the Father’s appearance fee. And then there were all his handlers to think of. Some of the collected money might find its way to the poor and the needy, but that was usually by accident – an error on the part of the church accountant. Such errors were frowned upon, but they gave the church a positive image in the press, so they were usually forgiven.
Today’s sermon was very busy indeed. First, there was the silent auction. Of course, being in a church, what other type of auction could you have but a silent one? Anything else would be ungodly! Then there was the Father’s motivational speech. If you wanted to listen to it, you had to place a donation of at least $25 into the collection plate. Otherwise, you had to leave the congregation and wait in the church basement, until the talk was over. But down in the basement, the old church ladies would talk you into buying some bake goods or old records – so either way, they had you!
The Father’s motivational speech, for those who could afford to listen to it, was all about the sanctity of shopping malls. According to the Father, malls were clean, shimmering, towering vessels of the Lord. Walking their hallowed corridors was next to godliness. However, the Father quickly pointed out that the reason God put them on earth was to spend. Spend, spend, spend!
“Do not bury the coins that the Lord hath provided you,” Father bellowed. “For they are meant to be spent on something nice. Something for your kitchen, bathroom, or living room – perhaps.”
The motivational speech was cut short for baptisms. Some members of the congregation were upset, having spent an entire $25 on an incomplete talk. But there wasn’t a money back guarantee. There never is with religion. You roll the dice and take your chances. The church could never afford a money back guarantee anyway. So, think before you spend – that’s my advice. You really have to read the fine print – and the bible is full of that!
Old Mrs. Smith was the first to join the procession to the front. Baptisms were very popular. The Father had his holy water ready. The congregation had their cheque books ready. Old Mrs. Smith had her brand new Black and Decker Toaster Oven wrapped lovingly in a baby blue blanket. The Father gently uncovered it, to the glee of the congregation, and lightly sprinkled some holy water on it.
“Lord, bless this Black and Decker Toaster Oven,” the Father bellowed (he did a lot of bellowing – it was the only way that people in the back row could hear him), “with it’s user-friendly knobs and buttons and its easy clean features. Encased in a tough, durable, stainless steel frame, and lovingly detailed with black plastic, it comes complete with a five year manufacturer’s warranty on parts and labour. This fine toaster oven is sure to be a worthy addition to anyone’s kitchen at a mere $88.89 – that right, $88.89!”
Throughout the congregation, people madly wrote cheques for $88.89. If the Father blessed it, it had to be good. It was worthy. If you bought the toaster oven, you were on your way to redemption. In fact, the old ladies in the church basement used it for their bake goods – cookies in the shape of Moses, and the like. What better endorsement is there than that?
No sooner had the Father blessed a few lower end purchases – radios, TVs, computers, and refrigerators – then the congregation was heading outside for the main event. Someone in the congregation had bought a new BMW and had to have it baptized immediately. BMW owners are always in a rush! The Father gladly complied. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
There were two brand new SUVs to be blessed. The SUVs always took the Father longer to baptize. Often, he’d baptize them in a river, like in the good old days, but mainly because it looked so good – just like in the TV commercials! While it took longer, it was all worthwhile in the end. After all, the SUVs could hold lots of purchases – like stained glass, pulpits, pews, bake goods, and old records. And let’s not forget the Black and Decker Toaster oven! There’s always room for one of those!
After nearly an hour in the morning sun, we headed back into the church. Everyone had to pay a fee to re-enter. There was a sign above the door – “No Ins and Outs”. That could be open to various interpretations, but that’s another matter best handled in another story. As we entered, I overheard a conversation between a young girl and the Father.
“Father”, she said shyly, “yesterday I was in the mall …”. She hesitated.
“Yes my child,” the Father comforted her, “you can tell me anything – I’m the Father.”
“Father, “ she stared anew, ”I was in the mall, and I saw a very expensive doll that I really wanted. But I resisted the urge to buy it. Will I go to Hell now?.”
“Yes you will,” The Father replied. “Have your parents bring you to the confessional booth after the sermon – and tell them to bring their cheque books.”
To be fair, I only remained in the sermon for another 25 minutes. By then, I had already paid about $75 in congregation plate donations and related fees. I guess religion is too rich for my blood! As I walked home, I was left wondering who can afford to get into Heaven anymore. But more importantly, when you get there, how much is the rent?