This is a seriously abbreviated version of the Saint Ben story condensed into only three Catches. Next week I may pull a few short sections for reflection once you have a basic idea of the story. But if you get hooked (and I hope you do), we will have a couple of ways of getting the book out next week. In the meantime, one of our readers turned us on to abebooks.com that has a few inexpensive used copies, as does Amazon.
Referring to yesterday’s summary, Gene wrote me wanting to know what happened when the alarm clock went off in church. Details like that you’ll have to find in the story, except to mention that Ben got his hands on a microphone and put it up to the alarm clock which made it sound more like a fire bell than an alarm clock when it went off, sending most of the congregation jumping out of their seats, except for Homer Batts who had his hearing aid turned down so he could sleep through church.
So, here’s today’s summary:
From a secret hideout in the abandoned bell tower of the old sanctuary, where a small window high above the balcony looks down on the back of the congregation, they carry out their scheme to disrupt the services. With Ben behind the organ pipes and Jonathan signaling with a flashlight from the tower, they shoot rubber arrows, set off smoke bombs, let loose doves, fly streamers, and yet, much to Ben’s disappointment, they are not achieving the desired results. Instead, people start coming to church just for the scripture reading stunts. Ben has unwittingly awakened the people and brought life to his father’s sermons.
Finally, in an attempt to protect Jonathan’s older sister, Becky, from a possible indiscretion the boys have discovered by one of the pastoral staff, Ben thinks he knows how to truly mess things up this time, and he’s right. They unfurl a banner that questions the associate pastor’s relationship with junior high girls, and this time a shocked silence settles over the congregation. The bold move endears the boys to Becky, but puts their antics on hold for the time being, driving them back to recreating the little suburbia they were building in Jonathan’s back yard; Jonathan’s afternoon paper route for the Pasadena Star-News that Ben often accompanies him on; and, as always, the Edsel.
A vague foreboding begins to settle in on the boys that is somehow connected to the fate of the Edsel car and when the 1959 Edsel comes out, they ride their bikes to the showroom and Ben is repulsed by the changes that put an end to the original car’s distinctiveness. On the return trip, they stop to eat their bag lunches in a cave of juniper bushes with a light rain falling, and Ben predicts the Edsel won’t even make it to a 1960 model. That’s when Jonathan blurts out without thinking, “Ben, it’s only a car—” To which Ben interrupts, “What do you mean it’s only a car? It’s only my life! What do you think about that?” And as the rain pushes through the bushes and runs down their cheeks, Jonathan thinks it would be a good time to cry. No one would know.
* * * * *
Every church, every family, every office, every grouping of people has dark things among their members that are hidden. Some of these things bring harm only to the person hiding; some bring harm to others. For there to be healing, these have to be exposed. Paul says it is our responsibility to expose these “fruitless deeds of darkness,” and that is what our two young characters do here in our story — doing the right thing for the right reason. Some might argue that the way they did it wasn’t the best way, but it was certainly effective. It’s only when deeds of darkness come to light that something can be done to heal those involved.
I spoke once at a church that had a former pastor carrying on a counseling ministry to people with addictions. Turns out he had an alcohol problem and left the ministry to address it and ten years later, he came back as a counselor to the same church he used to pastor. He told me that once he hung out his shingle, the door to his office had been a revolving door. The question enters your mind, Where were these people before he started his counseling? The answer is revealing. They were right there all along, they were just hidden. As soon as one comes forward, especially someone who was a leader in the church, it gives permission for others to do the same.
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” Ephesians 5:11-12