In the fall of 1987, Melanie and I returned to Lakeland and began attending Carpenter’s Home Church, the newly constructed sanctuary of the church we attended during our first season in Lakeland. It was not long before the pastor’s wife approached me with a request. Joyce Strader had been reading a book by Gene Edwards, A Tale of Three Kings. Joyce often initiated artistic expressions of worship. Now she wanted me to adapt this book as a stage play for presentation at the church.
I had never before attempted any such thing and why Joyce would think I was the one to handle it I do not know. She might well have told me, had I asked, that the Lord prompted her to approach me. She was a prayerful woman who knew the Voice of her Savior. In any event, one did not say “No,” easily to Mrs. Strader!
I am glad I did not say “no.” I got the book and read it. I was fortunate in that Edwards’ book was already written in a very dramatic style, with lots of dialog created for the characters. I found it very easy to reset the book into a series of short scenes to be acted out on stage. And I stole a classic narrative device from a play I had read in school, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. I gave myself the role of the Narrator who walked in and out of the scenes, commenting on them, and bumping the action along to the next highlight.
There was one performance of my script before the congregation, Sunday night, October 8, 1987. Carpenter’s was a big church complete with video recording capability. Stephen Strader, who directed the television ministry, later passed along the videotape of the play to me. I have played that recording over and over in the years following, including in several Bible studies that I have taught.
The question raised by the book is, can anyone tell, at the time, whether God’s leader is truly anointed by the Holy Spirit or not? Edwards lays out the story of the first three kings of Israel: Saul, David, and Absalom. Particularly in the case of Saul and David, you have two men who had both been anointed by Samuel to lead the nation. But which one should the people be following? Did David have any right to claim the throne while Saul lived? How could anyone tell? The answer Edwards gives is fascinating to me: the People of God cannot tell – but their children will know!
If you have not, by all means get a copy of the book. It remains relevant, as the questions of authority and submission face every generation of the Church.
But I began this reminiscence because this week my thoughts were drawn back to Joyce Strader. At her funeral service this morning, the memories came back as the great crowd of people smiled, chuckled and gave thanks for the life of this faithful servant in our lives. I give thanks here for this personal encounter of mine, in particular. It has remained a vivid lesson to me of how the smallest-seeming obedience to the most unexpected request, when it has arisen out of time spent with Jesus, can bear the fruit that remains, in ways that continue to glorify God.
My prayer that the peace of God continues to comfort their hearts goes out to Joyce’s husband, Karl, and all her children and grandchildren tonight.