I once saw a pastor.
I once saw a pastor who would mime his sermon, trapped in a box in his mind.
I once saw a pastor who had erected a great disk with the likeness of a face, behind which he spoke and pretended to be the sun.
I once saw a pastor who had a list of all those permitted into Heaven, the names written in pencil. At the end of his service, the Pastor would shout a name from the list. The congregation would wait, and feel cheated if he used a name not from the congregation, but from the Bible (too obvious) or a celebrity. They felt cheated but would still go the next Sunday and wait.
I once saw a pastor who read from the phone book in a hushed, sultry voice.
I once saw a pastor who wanted to own a gym, put dumbbells under the pews, and tall mirrors along the walls, who rode a stationary bike while he preached in-between labored breaths. The body was a temple, and a man must be fit for salvation.
But the strangest pastor I ever saw did real miracles.
The pastor would tear up printed copies of the Ten Commandments, shouting, “this is what the people do to God’s Laws!” He would throw the scraps everywhere like confetti. “But!” He would pause, pick up a scrap, unfold it, unfold it, unfold it, to reveal a perfectly-good copy. “God’s Laws cannot be shred so easily!”
The pastor would baptize a kid by holding him underwater far too long. The audience would murmur, and the parents, on-stage, would smile and fidget. Suddenly, the pastor would shout, “Behold!” and behold, the child was in the rafters, safe and sound and completely dry.
The pastor would nail himself to a cross on Friday afternoons, and show us his wrists on Sunday. There wouldn’t be a mark. “Healed!” he would shout, “By the glory of Jesus-uh!”
The pastor would slip into a blue tub of water, and the elders would secure a lid overtop. “Jonah had three days. I will get three minutes!” At the end of the timer were whale songs, and the elders would carefully unlock the deadbolts and pull off the lid, peering in cautiously as if it were Daniel’s Den. But the pastor would be sitting in the rafters, laughing at our faces.
The pastor would perform a trick with a deck of cards, offering a parishoner to take a card at random, then putting it back in the deck. “God is so Awe-Inspiring he knows what’s behind every card, and by his Great Compassion, he has lent me a small bit of that Power. Is this your card?” The parishoner would shake his head. “Of course not! And that is the folly of man. Now look in your wallet! It’s there? That’s the glory of God!” Applause.
The pastor would light himself on fire to show us the fury of Hell. The pastor would toss out a dove from his sleeve whenever he spoke of the Spirit. The pastor made a plane disappear once. I don’t recall the message.
But the greatest trick the pastor ever pulled, was every moment, in the wariness and bliss of that small church, that we believed.