He was always late, but tonight he arrived early. He shuffled into a back pew, not noticing Rev. Johnston lighting the candles. He knelt down and placed his head on the pew in front of him.
Rev. Johnston heard the sounds of moaning in the pew. He lowered the candlelighter and turned around, noticing the figure of a boy, hands grasping his head. Rev. Johnston cautiously approached the boy.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
The boy looked up. It was Philip Sackman, one of the teenagers in the church.
“Rev. Johnston,” he said, somewhat surprised.
“Philip, are you okay?”
Philip started to speak, but fumbled with his words. He started to shake his head.
Rev. Johnston knelt beside him. “Dear Lord, something is wrong.”
“I,….” Philip began, looking down, “I have sinned.”
Rev. Johnston l0oked at Philip. He placed his hand on Philip’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Philip. Tell me what’s wrong.”
Philip looked directly at Rev. Johnston. “I have committed an abomination.”
Rev. Johnston removed his hand and spoke uncertainly, “Look, Philip, I think you’re being too hard on yourself. What is this about?”
Philip looked up to the heavens. He spoke, “.. and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.”
Rev. Johnston rose to his feet. “Philip, I really think you need to talk somebody. A professional. I’ll go call someone. Will you be okay here?”
Philip sp0ke with conviction, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” He covered his face with his hands leaned forward.
“You pray, Philip. I’ll be right back.”
Rev. Johnston scurried away to his office.
A gust of wind blew out the candles on the altar.
Philip leaned back against the pew. Slowly, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a knife.
Philip raised the blade, looked up to heaven, and spoke as if reciting a decree –
“And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.”
Rev. Johnston returned to find Philip slumped on the floor beside the pew, surrounded by a pool of blood. He wore a smile on his face.
“It is better…” said the boy.
“My God, my God,” said the pastor, “What have I done?”
(inspired by a “Write Now” prompt from Today’s Author)