BECAUSE THE PHARISEES MUTTERED
LUNCH AT ANGELO’S
A huge smile spreads across his face, when Frank spies Sharon seated at a table at Angelo’s Italian Restaurant. He assures the host that he spots his lunch companions and that it will not be necessary for her to escort him back to them.
“I am sorry I am late,” Frank pulls out a chair next to Sharon. “I hope you haven’t been waiting on me.”
“We just arrived,” a man that Frank has not met stands and extends his right hand before Frank can be seated.
As the two men greet each other, Sharon introduces the stranger and the woman seated at the table across from Sharon.
“Frank, this is Dr. Paul Sanders and you may remember his wife as Barb Weiss, now Barb Sanders.”
Barb extends her hand, “Yes, Sharon and I were best friends in high school where you and I first met.”
Barb flashes a timid grin exposing huge dimples, “I recognize that smile, Barb. It’s good to see you, again. It is great to meet you, Dr. Sanders.”
“Paul, please,” Dr. Sanders says with a tone of modesty, “Only my students who are trying not to fail call me Dr. Sanders. Everyone else calls me Paul.”
“So, that is a PhD?”
“In sociology,” the two men are now seated comfortably at the table.
Frank learns that his nervousness about meeting Sharon’s friends is unnecessary. Paul grew up in an episcopalian church in Boston and currently attends one here in Evansville. Barb is very involved with the local humane society and the arts council in Evansville. They both are very open and have had some very fascinating experiences around the world. Even though they made him feel comfortable, he sometimes felt out of place – a fish out of water. Yet, at the end of the lunch, he looks forward to meeting with them again.
Sharon and the Sanders invited Frank to join them at the Sanders’ home in Evansville, but Frank decided to return to Melo instead. He made up some excuse which only had a very tiny element of truth to it. It is too obvious to Sharon and her friends but they are too kind to call him on it.
A PASTORAL CALL
Frank sits quietly and comfortably in leather chair reading a novel. He arrived at the small coffee shop early. He knows the owner and the owner’s family and used to visit here, sip some coffee, prepare a sermon or meet with members of the congregation to chat.
Today, he is here accepting an invitation from Pastor Jackson Spira, the current pastor of his former church. It seems a bit bizarre to be the guest and not the preacher. He wonders if the questions rattling about in his brain is the same reaction his invitees wrestled with those many years ago. His purposes were usually to become more familiar with the invitee. If it were something more serious, he invited them into his office. He has no way of knowing Jackson Spira’s methods or motives.
Frank has consciously positioned himself in this chair because it faces the entrance to the little shop. Each time the door flies open, Frank peers over his novel to see who enters. Part of Frank hopes the young pastor is seeking advice, but the one time he met with Reverend Spira, he got the impression Spira was not prone to seeking advice from the pastor of a church whose congregation was aging and dwindling with the passing of long time members.
Many times the door opens, but Pastor Spira is not the patron who enters. Even at the prescribed meeting time of nine o’clock, the door opens and several times afterward, but no Jackson Spira.
Finally, twenty minutes after the appointed time, Spira finds a seat on the couch in the area where Frank has waited, “Can we move to a table over there by the window? I’m uncomfortable here.” Frank politely acquiesces and follows Spira who without waiting for a response has found a table closer to the entrance.
Once settled in their new meeting place, Spira apologizes by blaming his youngest son for dragging his feet readying for school. Frank explains that it gave him a chance to catch up on his reading. Frank shows the book, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Rev. Spira grunts pleasantly.
This is a moment where Frank as a pastor wanting to get to know a member better would ask about the book and the member’s reaction.
“Look, sir, I’ll make this quick because I have already taken up too much of your time,” Spira leans forward both hands folded together in front of him on the table.
Frank starts to suggest that he is in no hurry but cannot even get the words out before Spira continues.
“I’m here to talk to you because friends of yours on my deacon board asked me to talk to you. They are concerned for you and hope you will not be offended.”
Frank has learned that when someone says they hope you will not be offended that they are about to say something that is probably offensive.
Frank smiles, “You can tell my friends on your deacon board that I am glad that they are concerned.”
“Good. Thank you for understanding,” Spira leans back, takes a sip of his drink.
Frank thinks about asking why his “friends” would need to send their pastor to voice their concerns and decides it must be a spiritual issue they are concerned about.
“I’ll get right to the point, Frank,” Spira notices Frank has no beverage. “Would you like something to eat or drink?”
“I came as soon as the shop opened and ate breakfast and finished a cup and a refill of coffee before you arrived,” Frank waves off Spira’s invitation.
“Many of the congregation, your former congregation have seen you frequently with Sharon Benton.”
“Yes, I have,” Frank leans back in his chair and folds his arms in front of him. “Sharon and I have known each other since we were kids.”
“I met her once,” Pastor Spira brings his cup to his lips and takes a sip. “She came to the church looking for you earlier this year. It appears you found each other.”
“We did and our friendship renewed quickly,” Frank notices Spira is more relaxed than before. “Why does that concern my former congregation?”
“What kind of a friendship do you have with Ms. Benton?”
Frank leans forward now, his folded hands in front of him on the table,”I see her every Sunday after church and quite often through the week.”
“So, you attend church together?”
One corner of Frank’s mouth curls up into a wry smile, “Sharon has yet to attend church with me.”
“Do you believe she might one day?”
“When I met her, I think she made it clear that she had little interest in church,” Spira pulls his cup up in front of him and cradles it with both hands.
“I don’t wish for her to be interested in church,” Frank leans on one elbow. “I want to arouse her interest in knowing God the way I do and attend a church where she can get to know him better.”
“So, your interest in Ms. Benton is to help her know God the way you do, then?”
“No, Pastor Spira,” Frank picks up his book and tucks it under his arm, “it is only partly the reason. I am attracted to her and I enjoy her company, her friendship, and her cooking.”
Frank starts to stand, but pauses to await more inquiries from this young pastor, “Are there other issues or concerns that you need to bring up?”
“No,” Spira puts down his cup, “I would like to pray with you before you go if you won’t mind.”
Frank nods approval and bows his head. Pastor Spira prays mentioning Sharon in his prayer and that she learns to know and accept God and Christ Jesus.
Frank stands and offers his hand to Spira, “Thank you for your time and thank those who have concerns for me. Please, let them know that they can come to me themselves, any time.”
Spira nods and watches carefully each step as Frank departs. Once assured that Frank is out of sight, he leaves the coffee shop.
Frank reluctantly relays his experience to Sharon that night. His reluctance is based on the fact that he feels this misguided church tradition is the seed for Sharon’s distrust of Christianity.
“Why do you get so angry, Frank?” Sharon, sitting next to him on her couch, pinches the sleeve of his shirt between her thumb and forefinger.
“I know it’s this kind of thinking that keeps you from attending church,” Frank caresses her hand touching his sleeve.
Sharon clasps his hand, starts to speak but pauses and gazes into his eyes. Frank, mesmerized by her gaze, starts to lean in to kiss her. She resists by pulling her head away from his advance.
“You’ve misunderstood,” Sharon places her free hand on Frank’s chest.
“Misunderstood? What have I misunderstood?”
“My reason for avoiding church isn’t related to other’s judgmental behaviors.”
Frank cocks his head to one side, “Other’s?”
Sharon nods her head several times and grips tightly to Frank’s hand as he starts to withdraw.
“Other’s,” Frank repeats the word as the realization absorbs slowly into his heart.
“Yes, Frank,” Sharon holds tightly to his hand as she watches his face turn ashen.
“You think I’m judgmental,” Frank pulls away, his stomach churns, his heart aches.
“Listen to yourself, Frank. How angry you are and unforgiving of this young preacher.”
“But he’s wrong and he’s the pastor of a church. Isn’t that righteous indignation?”
“I don’t know about righteous indignation or righteousness of any kind,” Sharon clings tightly to Frank, “I do know you were that young pastor once. I think that’s why you’re so angry.”
Sharon watches as Frank’s blue green eyes turn dark grey. He does not pull away from her grasp but remains frozen in this sudden crushing blow of self awareness.
Slowly, Sharon draws carefully closer to Frank finally engulfing him in her arms. He surrenders to the moment.
A calm rushes over him as Frank enjoys the warmth of Sharon’s body and the rise and fall of her chest with every gentle inhale and exhale, soothing inhale and exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
I write about what I'm thinking or what I've imagined in an effort to regain that childhood imagination and marry with my many years of real experiences. I'm getting better at it the more I write.I am a published author of two romantic intrigue novels.My books can be found at Amazon.com or if you want a personalized copy, by emailing me at email@example.com.