Fiction

The Reverend’s Sermon: A Short Story by David Kiarie

It was four o’clock in the morning. The wind brushed swiftly against the trees, swaying them side to side gently. Its sweeping movement produced a distant whistling sound. The noise of creeping insects was evident as each searched, in the closing hours of their activities, for a mate to impress. Most fortunate of the insects were the fireflies. They flew everywhere magnificently, their luminous lights shining splendidly in the early morning darkness. The frogs and crickets were not to be left behind. They croaked and chirped tirelessly in competition with each other from every point on the floor of the open field.

The exhibition in the celestial sky was equally enchanting. The moon and stars sparkled beautifully like rare Arabian gemstones. The ever-elusive morning star was visible in the cloudless sky. It twinkled brilliantly, momentarily taking away the spot light from the rest of the stars. The night was dazzling, spectacular in its serene harmonious activities. Everything fell together perfectly, resulting in a breath-taking spectacle.

There was a lull in the wind. This pulled him back to consciousness. Of late reverend Mureithi had sleepless nights. He had contracted insomnia which he was convinced was a result of old age. “I am seventy seven years old. These problems are expected.” He explained. Through his sleepless nights he sat and admired the benevolent countryside. He considered it the creator’s masterpiece. He never got over the infinite mastery of the creator’s prowess in his creation work. He adjusted his thick spectacles back to his eyes after noticing they were hanging by the tip of his wide nose.

“Tom! Here Tom! Come to me boy!” He called out to his German shepherd. His voice, deep and hollow, reverberated eerily in the lonely house for a few seconds before echoing back to his ears. Tom came running to him and almost knocked him down. “Ye-e-s! That’s my boy.” The reverend patted his faithful dog jovially. It in turn licked his hand while wagging its tail with reciprocated joy. No one could deny that they both enjoyed each other’s company.

Tom made himself comfortable at the feet of his master and slipped away into slumber. Reverend Mureithi smiled. He had grown accustomed to this gesture by Tom. Though asleep, Tom was surprisingly very alert. This realization always brought comfort to him. He raised his eyes and admired the golden framed picture, hanging directly above the fireplace that warmed the room. Tom, then barely a year old, rested peacefully on his lap while he rocked on his chair. He himself looked handsome, seven years younger then. Tom had never left his side – not even once. He gazed outside again, through the window on the opposite side of the fireplace and begun to rock on his chair. As usual, his whirlpool of thoughts over took him. He thought:

“Today is Sunday. What shall be the text of my sermon? Oh, yes! Job 34:21. ‘For His eyes are always on the ways of man and he sees his entire goings.” He pondered silently on this verse for a long while. Suddenly he was startled out of his thoughts by the resounding echo of Tom’s barking, coming from the front door. It was already daybreak and Tom wanted his usual morning walk. The reverend gathered together all his strength and forced himself up. Every knuckle cracked and creaked with every step he took. It was distressing but he willed himself forward.

He edged onwards with much effort and got to the heavy metallic door. Slowly, he pushed it slightly ajar. Tom sped off like lightning, jumping over his late wife’s grave carelessly. “Watch that…!” The reverend tried to warn his dog in vain. It was too late. Tom trampled over the freshly put bunches of roses that he had only recently placed on the grave. “Ah! So much for the effort at commemorating the sixth anniversary of my wife’s death!” He remarked shrugging his shoulders in disbelief. Tom disappeared into the church compound afar off. He shook his head and stepped back into the lonely house to prepare for his sermon. Time was running out.

“Brothers and sisters in the Lord, you ought to watch your ways. His eyes are always on you. Yes, He sees all the secret things done in the thicket of darkness. Do good to all and abandon the ways of evil men. Beware; the devil lurks like a hungry lion seeking those he can devour. Do not fall in his snares. Look at my son’s brethren. These five years gone, I have not once laid eyes on them. The enemy lured them and they disappeared in the capital. They chose the simple pleasures of the city, abandoning me in this innocent simplicity of the countryside. To date they continue to entangle themselves in the never ending, never satisfying, malignant yet subtle enticements of city life. I endured it with social bravery. However, beware brethren; He sees all the ways of man.”

This was his sermon. The reverend rehearsed it for another short while and was satisfied. Again, he opened the heavy metallic door, stepped out of the gloominess of the lonely house and emerged into the light outside. He started his majestic march to the chapel to deliver God’s message to those willing to listen. It was his duty to do so.

***

The chapel stood out prominently from a distance, highlighted by the pinkish-red horizon. As he approached its precincts, he could still see and admire its vintage architectural design. The classic, eighteenth century design was something of an architectural wonder – so said those who knew. The sun was emerging from its hood of puffy clouds. Its golden beams of light clashed with the white paint of the church giving the magnificent illusion of a gigantic bright shining torch. Doves swarmed out of the attic of the church with a vitality that could only be attributed to them. From this building that was not only a sanctuary of holy men, the singing of these birds spread across the vast paradise.

He steadily walked to the porch of the church humming to himself an old praise hymn. His mind was light. He looked forward to a fulfilling time of fellowship with his congregation. Looking at him then, you saw that he was so gay, his gait exuding a buoyant man full of joy and happiness – the kind of happiness that can only come from above. A smile danced playfully on his full rosy lips. He threw his walking stick forward, digging it deep into the ground before leaping a step in front with a bounce. This movement gave him the aura of a man on a mission. Any one who saw him then would have been forgiven for mistaking him for Moses bringing down the commandments to the Israelites.

He had a long graying beard that went along well with his patterned African clock. Under his left armpit was his voluminous bible and in his right hand was his staff. A few meters from the church he noticed that two men had evidently arrived before him. “There goes my flock.” he mused to himself. He spat on his palm, passed the wet hand down the whole length of his long beard and smoothened it with the spittle. He then stretched himself to his full length and continued his march forward. As he came closer to the two men, he realized that the men were drunk. In their drunkenness, they threw empty beer cans at the helpless birds with menacing force.

The birds chirruped and flapped their wings frightfully as they scampered from the attic to safety. A paroxysm of rage boiled within the reverend. He turned florid with rage. He could have sworn that heat waves visibly sweltered from his balding head. The pungent smell of burning hair that reached his nose affirmed to him that his head was ablaze. He did not care to put the fire out; he cared to teach the rowdy youths the lesson of their lives. They had messed with God’s house – the wrong house! He raised his walking stick high in the air on sudden impulse and was about to land it hard on the rogue youths when something striking stopped him. He moved a little closer to the boys with his stick still high in the air, for better inspection. What he saw sent him reeling back in horror. He quickly cupped his face in both hands and hoped that his eyes were playing tricks on him. “Please God; let this not be true. Let this be one terrible dream….”

“Father? Father, it is you! How…how are you father?” The two men greeted in unison. Their faces registered shock as much as dismay. They obviously had not expected their father to show up when he did. The reverend Mureithi’s heart sank to the ground. He was shaken to the core of his being. This was the first time he was coming face to face with despondency and he was reduced to tears. His head, weighed down by a heavy feeling of defeat, dropped to his shoulders. He scarcely believed what he was seeing. Were these really his sons?

He recalled how his sons had once been God fearing and respectable children. What had happened to them? He could not understand what had gone wrong. Were all his efforts at bringing up his sons in the way of the Lord gone to the dogs? He had sold his soul to the Lord’s service. Was this his reward? “Why Lord didn’t you take me too and spare me this heart break like you did my beloved wife?” He lamented. He could not have been more disappointed.

***

The reverend and his wife had dedicated their whole lives to instilling all the values of the good book in their sons. They had spared no effort in ensuring that their sons were respectful to everyone, that they showed gratitude as well as remorse whenever either was called for. This was, however, now shattering before his very eyes. In no time, the chapel would flood with a sea of believers. It would all lie naked before them – the scrawny, disheveled haggard drunkards that his sons had become.

***

The reverend could even visualize the believers’ bundled together in groups whispering their sibilant disapproval. He knew that his congregation was not one that he would particularly claim to be fully converted. They were pathetic gossipers and backbiters when they were not in their whitewashed, straight –ironed Sunday best clothes that they attended church in. No sooner had the service ended than they were back in their tattered, every day clothes and their contravening pagan ways. Their attending church was a well thought, premeditated grand charade for deception. They did not fool him though. He knew them far too well.

This realization only served to demolish him farther. An over powering sense of loss overwhelmed him. He saw his self-worth melt away like butter out in the sun. His spiritual strength accordingly plummeted and he knew that he had reached rock bottom. He could not possibly fall any further from grace. He was a wretched failure, a conceited, superficial old fool who had outlived his usefulness. For a long moment he stood dejected and motionless, with his eyes glued to the ground. His hands dangled loosely by his side and his otherwise straight back arched into a piteous curve. He looked far older than he actually was and felt a miserable, disdainful, ugly, old man.

Suddenly the chime of the church bells wrung out in his ears and startled him. The warm sensation of rushing blood in his veins swept over his whole body. A smile slowly but stealthily crept up his wrinkled face. He lifted his wet eyes from the ground and looked at the weakened figures of his sons. He edged nearer to the weakened figures and embraced them emotionally. His body trembled with feelings. “Mark! John! Is it you? Ah, it is you! Welcome home my sons. Welcome to the house of God!” The reverend choked over his words. Tears filled his eyes, making them glassy again. Mark and John were taken by surprise by their father’s enigmatic sentiments once again. It was confusing. They did not understand so they went speechless.

The reverend Mureithi knew that this was his cross. He just had to carry his own cross. No one would carry his cross for him no matter how sorry he felt for himself. “Join me, my sons, for the service is about to begin.” He said gently to his bewildered sons. He held their hands lovingly and led them into the chapel. “My children, this is the day that the lord has made, let us rejoice and be happy in the lord because little things affect little minds.” He doted nonchalantly as he lead his sons into the house of God – the house that the reverend was sure would change his sons forever.

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3 Comments

  • My heart goes out to the reverend. Maybe now he can give some time to the real work God gave him; to rear his boys(tough though it will be) for the real, ugly world. I love the descriptive powers and vivid images of nature. Good work.