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The raft of God is comin’

As a young boy, Civil Rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis would preach to the chickens. That story was told many times during the past week as tributes were paid to the native son of Pike County.

I was reminded, too, that others have chosen chickens as their audiences. Master storyteller and playwright Gary Carden’s first audiences were chickens and so were the audiences of others who grew up in rural parts of the country.

Preaching to chickens is about all that I have in common with those like the late Congressman John Lewis and Gary Carden who rose far above preaching to the chickens.

My grandmother had a chicken yard that included a turkey or two that always mysteriously disappeared around Thanksgiving and Christmas time.

The fun of chickens was gathering the eggs and “wrangling  them cows” after the Saturday picture show.

But, for young’uns of the good ol’ days, chicken feathers were tucked away after Sunday dinner as fodder for the graveyard.

Back then, playing church was the usual Sunday afternoon entertainment for children. We had preaching, singing and praying. We took up collection- rocks, berries and nuts and on special days, we had a funeral.

Funerals were held for any deceased animal worthy of being remembered – mainly squirrels, birds and butterflies.

We didn’t funeralize rats, skunks and possums. We gave them a quick burial in the ditch.

We wrapped the deceased in a newspaper or a stray sock and put them in the coffin box.

The preacher, always a boy, said good things about the dead. We sang “Jesus Loves Me” or a new song we had learned at Sunday school.

We prayed and buried the dead in a deep hole, covered it and decorated it with flowers, rocks and pieces of glass and sang “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”

But our biggest and best church service came after revival preaching. The revival preacher preached loud and long and said the same thing, over and over so we would get it.

The most memorable of the revival sermons was about God’s wrath coming.

After that revival service, we had a revival. We gathered around the crepe myrtle tree and Preacher Jim delivered the revival sermon, just as he heard it from the pulpit.

At the top of his lungs, Preach Jim yelled that we had sinned. We had not minded our mamas and daddies, had told lies and not done our chores or our homework. We made bad grades and didn’t eat our vegetables.

“God’s raft is comin’ for you! I can see it comin’ down the Pea River!” Preacher Jim yelled. “God’s raft is comin’!  I see it now! God’s raft is comin’ for all of you!”

We shook in our little shoes.

Strangely, I’ve heard that same sermon many times over the last few months.  So much so, that I’ve started thinking, maybe, it’s time we start looking up the river. Just like Preacher Jim said. God’s raft might be coming