Liars Contest - Vandalia 2005
The Gospel According to West Virginia
Well, seeing that you have gathered today as a congregation, and today being Sunday, the Sabbath, I reckon we ought to have us a little Sunday school. So, today’s Sunday school lesson shall be called “The Gospel According to West Virginia.”
Now, it was in the days — the great glory days — of the coal mining industry. And a woman named Mother Jones had just walked into the land known as West Virginia. She was tired from walking and sat down on the banks of the Kanawha River to take a rest. And she heard a sound, a sound like the bleating of a lamb. And she looked over, and, lo, there was a small child there. And it was hurt and sick.
So she saw someone walking by on the road, and she said, “Come here — help. This child needs help.”
This gentleman comes down. He was a coal miner, and they sat there and prayed right there that the child would be healed.
Now, at the same time, in a town known as Keyser, which was about a two-week’s walk away, there lived three scientists who every night would come out and study the stars.
On this night, the first scientist took out his telescope and said, “Brethren, look! I see a great light coming from the west, and it beckons us to go to Charleston.”
And the second scientist said, “Oh, don’t be a fool. That great light’s nothing but the gold dome on top of the State Capitol.”
And the first one said, “Be that as it may, it beckons us to go. And it beckons us to take gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
And the second scientist said, “Oh, don’t be a fool. You know we don’t got none of them.”
And the third scientist said, “We don’t even know what those are.”
But they went anyway, these three scientists — you could say, these three wise men — from the East-ern Panhandle.
They went to the Capitol and they took with them, not gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, but they took with them gifts of coal and rhododendron and preserves. Blackberry preserves. And they were all gifts that would warm and feed and comfort the child in the good West Virginia tradition. Can I get an “Amen?”
And the scientists made it, and the child lived. Hallelujah!
Now, Mother Jones and the coal miner decided to take the child as their own. They took him down into the coalfields, and he grew up with the coal miners. It was soon discovered that the problem with him was that he had a bad lung, and because of that, he could not go down into the mines.
Instead, he grew up learning the ways of the coal miners, and he went from town to town teaching the ways of the coal miners. And he was a great teacher. People would come from miles around to hear him teach the ways of the coal miners.
In those days, a great evil came into the land, and a great war sprung up between those that worked in the mines and those that owned the mines. There was shooting and fighting and weeping and bloodshed and gnashing of teeth. And when the great teacher heard about what was going on, he went down there to the coalfields, to the battlefields. And he said, “Stop the fighting. It is not smart to kill those that can work. I cannot go into the mines, but I have lived a good life teaching the ways of the miners. If you want to take someone, shoot me as a sacrifice.”
And he stood there, and those that owned the mines took their guns and shot him. He was hit and fell to the ground. All the miners rushed around him and dragged him down to Cabin Creek to wash and dress his wounds. He was out for three whole days.
And on the third day, he began to stir and his eyes opened. When the miners saw him stirring, they rushed around him.
He said, “Brethren, come closer. I can see white mountains and blue skies, and I can hear raging waters. And music of beautiful instruments. I can see all the wildlife and animals and plants of creation. Tell me, brothers, have I died and gone to heaven?”
And one of the miners leaned in close and said ever so softly, “Almost heaven.”
And knowing that his purpose had been served, and that the war had been ended, he closed his eyes and died right there.
But the lesson we should learn from this story is that, even though not all of us are miners today, we don’t have to be, as long as we remember the law of the miners: to be good people, keep good families, do hard work, and live good, clean lives. We don’t have to be miners because of the sacrifice that was made for us by the great teacher. And that while on this earth, our gift is almost heaven, West Virginia.
Sunday school is dismissed.