With the recent outbreak of Swine Flu, people are taking a lot of measures to keep from spreading that particular deadly disease. Here in the Montgomery area we saw high school athletic events cancelled, multiple instruction sheets from businesses and churches about how to avoid catching and passing on the flu, etc. Hopefully, it has been contained. It really got a lot of publicity and people expended a lot of energy to keep from catching it and spreading it.
There are also things for which we need to encourage an epidemic. We need to see that it could spread rapidly.
This list could be almost endless. I would like to see a contagious outbreak of Christian commitment, Christian witness, church attendance, prayer, Bible study, etc. These would be excellent subjects for an epidemic.
The big question is – Is there something about me that people ought to catch? What would happen to the gross national product in America if everybody caught my work ethic? What would be the trust level of people if everybody caught my core ethical values? What kind of atmosphere would pervade our country if everybody caught my attitude? You can go on with the list.
There is one thing that I hope we can all catch. I learned it from a man whom I admire and serve with on the Board of the United Methodist Publishing House. His name is Dr. Robert Spain. He is a retired United Methodist Bishop and serves as chaplain to the Publishing House.
He tells about his first pastorate in Shawnatee, Tennessee. It was a small church in a rural area of Tennessee.
The real leader of that church was Mr. William Dixon –known affectionately as “Uncle Billy.” He was the patriarch of the community. Everybody loved him. Even though the church had elected officials, Uncle Billy really made the decisions.
He made the announcements on Sunday mornings. He was quite elderly. He had one eye. He had lost one arm. When he prepared to make the announcements in church he would simply tuck the paperback hymnal under his arm, walk up, and start talking. Bob Spain said, “I learned to just sit down and let him say what he had to say.”
A mysterious illness began to spread among the people in Shawnatee. People became seriously ill. A public health nurse came in from Knoxville to investigate.
The nurse determined that the illness was due to the fact that people were all drinking from the same dipper on a well which was located between the school and town. Anyone who was thirsty would simply drop the bucket in the well, pull it up, use the dipper that was always there, and get a refreshing drink of water.
The nurse explained to Bob Spain that the illness was being passed on by people drinking from the common dipper. She asked for his help to inform the people and stop this practice.
In small rural towns in Tennessee, people don’t take well to people from the “big city” like public health nurses, etc. Rev. Spain decided to ask Uncle Billy to help him tell the church.
Uncle Billy agreed on Sunday morning to help spread the word. He encouraged people to quit drinking from the dipper at the well. He said this is where we are catching and spreading the illness. He pleaded with them to quit drinking from that dipper. They listened and obeyed.
Uncle Billy then tucked his paperback hymnal under his arm, knelt at the communion table, removed a white cloth from the communion elements, took the cover to one of the communion trays off, and took one of the little glasses out. He walked back and forth in front of the first row holding the cup, spilling some of the communion grape juice. He walked back and forth. He said to the people with intense emotion, “I plead with you that we all drink from this cup and catch what Jesus had.” Please drink from the cup and catch what Jesus had!”
This is what we need to catch—what Jesus had. We need to spread it. Let’s start an epidemic!