The Reverend TJ McCorkle always had thought provoking and sometimes quirky signs in front of his church, The First Church Of God, in Louisburg, NC. The last week in November was, if anything, his most controversial. It read: Jesus Loves You: Everyone Else Thinks You Are An Asshole. The Reverend McCorkle expected a large attendance that Sunday. He was correct.
As the church filled last Sunday, The Reverend felt a chill from the large crowd. He knew this might be the last sermon he would give in this small church to a group of people who had never really accepted him in his short tenure. The young folks seemed to like him a lot but they were not the ones that made the decisions.
He started his sermon: "Good morning and God bless you all. I want to talk to you about the sign out front. I know it has upset many of you and I don't blame you. It is a terrible thing to be called that name. It is a worse thing to deserve it" There were some angry murmurs in the crowd. He continued, "But, dear people, we have lost our way in the recent past. We have become angry and sometimes very ugly in our discourse. We have threatened violence and a few have even carried weapons to our church, a church of God. May I remind you of the Sermon On The Mount when Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. What has happened to us my dear friends. Some of us are so filled with hate and anger that there isn't room any more for love." He looked out at the congregation, "Ezra, didn't I see you carrying a sign at a rally that showed thousands of dead Jews at a Nazi concentration camp and then I heard you say about someone who had been in your store, that they were a Kike and tried to Jew you down? Emma Lou, didn't I see you carrying a sign at a rally that said "Government, keep your hands off my Medicare" and then saw you at the bank cashing your social security check? And Bubba,(and he picked out another member of the board of deacons) didn't I hear you joking with other men in town about a young gay man that had been beaten to death and you were laughing. And Big Ed, didn't I see you shaking hands with a local black minister, and then call him a nigger behind his back? Folks, this isn't what Jesus was all about----but if he tried to come to our church this morning with his flowing robes, a long beard, and a dark skin, would you have welcomed him or would you have called the Sheriff to bring the mace?"
As the Reverend McCorkle continued he turned once more to the congregation and said, "Dear friends, it is the twenty first century but we must live in it with the words that were spoken more than two thousand years ago------- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God."
McCorkle finished his sermon with the following from the Sermon on the Mount: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
As the congregation filed out of the church several of the young people gave the Reverend McCorkle a hug and a kiss, the majority of the congregation left with set looks and angry faces as members of the Board of Deacons were seen meeting in the parking lot.
On Monday morning a group of the deacons arrived at the church to set up the nativity scene for the Christmas holiday. No one looked at the rectory where the Reverend T.J. McCorkle was loading up his van with his wife, two small children and their belongings.
On Tuesday morning a new sign appeared in front of the First Church of God Church in Louisburg, North Carolina. It reads: Come All Ye Faithful.