“B ehold, I stand at the door and knock, says the Lord; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” Those are the words of God’s watchmen to a world in danger. The words God would have his watchmen share with souls troubled by sin and sorrow.
The year was 1969. The U. S. weather service had sent out warnings of an approaching hurricane. It was to make landfall somewhere around Pass Christian, Mississippi. A group of some 20 people living in the Richelieu Apartments of Pass Christian decided to hold a “hurricane party.” Less than a football field away from the water, the apartments would afford an excellent view of the storm.
The party was in full swing as Jerry Peralta, the chief of police, drove up. When a man with a drink in his hand came out on the second floor balcony, Chief Peralta called up to him, “Y’all need to clear out of here as quickly as you can. The storm is getting worse.”
Others joined the drink-toting individual. They all had a hearty laugh at the sheriff’s warning. One of the group called back, “This is my place. If you want me off, you’ll have to arrest me.” Chief Peralta drove away having changed no one’s mind about evacuating. But before he left he took down the names of all the partiers and their next of kin. The chief had been serious; the party people thought his warning was humorous.
Hurricane Camille came ashore with a vengeance. Her winds peaked at a record 205 miles an hour; her waves crested at a height of 30 feet. The plush Richelieu Apartments were leveled, its inhab- itants killed. They died because they had ignored the watchman and his warning.
Throughout history it has been a dangerous thing to ignore a watchman who is sharing a legitimate word of warning. God’s present-day watchmen smile when somebody says in jest, “What a job... wish I only had to work an hour on Sunday.”
Today’s watchmen laugh when somebody passes around a pretend job description that reads: “Minister wanted: He must preach for only 10 minutes and say all we need to hear. He must condemn sin, and not offend us.
“He must be 30 years old with 40 years experience. He must be tallishly short, ordinary looking and handsome. He will have a burning desire to work with the youth and spend all his time with the elderly. He is to be constantly out reaching the lost and visiting the sick yet still manage to be in his office when we need him.”
Those kinds of things make God’s watchmen smile. But the truth is, most of them feel ill suited for the work God has called them to do. Most are painfully aware that they are sinners and hardly able to fill the requirements for one who would respond to God’s call.
In spite of all that, God’s watchmen continue on because, for their hearers, the message they share is the difference between life and death.
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.