The Treasure in the Chest
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
-- Matthew 5:8
In the morning the Mormons quite serenely set to standing up the statue of Moroni and clearing the brush heaps Ephraim had made of their sacred grove. Jeremy wandered out of their midst and walked several miles to an outlying road.
He’d given little forethought to transportation, and figured he’d get from place to place in whatever manner any particular moment presented. He’d used his thumb on a couple of occasions in younger days, so he licked it for luck and stuck it up. He’d been standing there a good while, and had been passed by many vehicles, when he heard a puttering. He looked down the road and saw a tractor towing a long empty flatbed trailer emerge from behind a little hill and slowly approach. With its enormous wheels he thought it looked like a gigantic locust. He smiled as the tractor’s operator eased it alongside.
“Howdy stranger,” the man said loudly, as he down-throttled the engine. He looked Jeremy over, then continued. “I can lift you about ten miles down the road, and if you want to wait an hour or so while I load up with hay bales, another ten further after that. If nothing better, I’ll get you to a main road somewhere along the way.”
“That works for me,” Jeremy said. He hoisted himself up onto the bench seat and introduced himself to the farmer, whose name was Ralph. “I’m much obliged, and thank you very much!” he shouted.
“Think nothing of it!” Ralph replied. “Why don’t we wait until we reach the field to try and talk, instead of shouting? In the meantime I like to listen to music while I ride.” He reached under the steering column and retrieved a set of headphones similar to the ones he was wearing, and handed them to Jeremy. “These work pretty well. They muffle the sound, but there’s also a radio built in! You can change the station with the tuner, which is behind the right ear!”
Jeremy adjusted them comfortably around his ears then turned his eyes to the horizon and his mind in on his thoughts. He tuned a channel to his liking and melded the music with the hum of the road.
An hour or so later they rolled onto a field, where bales of hay uniformly dotted many acres. Ralph cut the engine and the tractor gently rolled to a stop. “Well, Jeremy,” he said, “you can get off here, or you can wait while I load the trailer and ride the rest of the way with me.”
“Or I can give you a hand,” Jeremy said.
“I was sort of hoping you might say that,” Ralph replied. “Here, I’ll trade you.”
He handed Jeremy a pair of work gloves and took the headphones and they commenced to stacking bales on the trailer.
“So who exactly are you, and where are you headed?” Ralph asked.
“I’m a catholic priest,” he answered. “I’m just wandering around America seeing how different people worship. I’m letting the Spirit lead the way, and wherever I end up is where I’m going. If someone offers me a ride to Tacoma tomorrow, then I’ll head in that direction; if someone has a seat on a boat sailing to Miami, then Miami it is. Otherwise I’ll just put one foot in front of the other.”
“That’s a nervy show of faith,” Ralph answered. “Well, Father, if you’d like you’re more than welcome to spend the night on my couch. I don’t live far from where we’re dropping the hay, and you could even stay for a couple days if you like.”
He didn’t have to think twice. “Thank you, I accept. And please, don’t call me father.”
“My apologies, Jeremy; I’m just trying to be respectful.”
“And you are,” he answered. “That’s one of the many conflicts with the Bible that makes me crazy about Catholicism. The church doctrine decrees that priests be addressed as ‘father,’ yet Jesus specifically said to ‘call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your father, which is in heaven.’ If the church was true to Christ, I wouldn’t be referred to as father.”
They set to the task and an hour later the trailer was loaded, an hour after that they were at their destination down the road, and an hour after that they were seated at Jed’s table drinking coffee.
“Well, Fat—uh, Jeremy. I have read the Bible, cover to cover, but I’ve got to confess, I really don’t understand Catholicism. I went to a Catholic church once, and didn’t feel very comfortable. It was very stiff. I felt like I was sneaking into a meeting of someone’s private club.”
“The church can be uptight.”
“And I really don’t understand much of what they do. What exactly is the rosary and the hail Marys? Where in the Bible does it say you have to kiss some beads while uttering certain words to prove my faith? How does that get you into heaven?”
“The rosary is nowhere in the Bible, nor the accompanying prayers,” Jeremy explained. “They are rites that were incorporated into church doctrine over the centuries. I’m sure someone somewhere in time convinced a pope that beads would be a great moneymaker if the congregants could only buy them from the church, and that some special council was convened to incorporate them into the catholic doctrine. Isaiah said: ‘This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.’ And Christ also spoke of kissing beads while mumbling when he said: “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
“Then what is the right way to worship?” Ralph asked. “You are the priest. Where should I go to church, and how should I pray?”
“That’s up to you. The outward display means little with God. He wants your love, which comes from your heart, which is why he sent his Son. Consider the very first words of the New Testament. ‘The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David.’ David is the greatest king in Jewish history, and Christ the king of mankind. Christ descended directly from the line of David, and when God chose David, it was on account of his heart: ‘And…he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus.’
To Christ is given the kingdom, and to populate that kingdom ‘the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.’ It’s repeated over and over throughout the scriptures. Jesus taught: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ And it is written in Deuteronomy: ‘But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.’ And in the Psalms: ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD.’ And back to Jesus, when he said: ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ Therefore you should live as if God is staring into your heart at every moment, because He is.
“Nicely spoken,” Ralph lauded. “On that note I’m going to put my tired heart to bed and chew on your wisdom while falling asleep. The house is yours. If you’re hungry, eat. There are books and television, blankets and pillows in that closet…make yourself comfortable. If I don’t see you in the morning, the pleasure was mine.”
“Thank you very much, I’ll still be here tomorrow,” Jeremy assured.
CONTINUE TO CHAPTER 5