Within the next few days, I will give you another chapter of Solomon and Sheba, a chapter from the life of the older couple, Sheba’s grandfather Joe and his beloved wife Addie Love. He has kept her on a pedestal, worshipping her. What happens when she insists on falling off?
Just a reminder that while this chapter has been proofed, it is in the draft stage and is presented for your thoughts and comments. It is not the finshed product. Please enjoy and comment and I look forward to your continuing to read as I write.
Marty Solomon stood on the elevated stage of Church of the Holy Redeemer looking out on the congregation eager to hear this particular sermon, God’s Precious Gift: How Well Do We Handle it? This was a subject dear to his heart: The sexual-sensual complex. He spoke from a fully trained mind and heart because he had enjoyed a splendid relationship with his late wife and a like one with Sheba, his present wife. Hymns had been sung and he knew they looked forward to Sheba and Angel Voices later singing spirituals. But it was hushed now in anticipation of this sermon, and he could imagine the many young people in his congregation saying, “Bring it on, Rev.”
He came from behind the lectern and spread his arms as if to embrace them all as the lights dimmed to a soft candlelit glow. Marty’s mellifluous baritone began. ”Do you think of your sexual-sensual complex as one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind?”
There was a slight rustling of programs here and scattered coughs from Roman Pittman and his friends. The wealthy old man always came to church and he tithed, but he was a controlling soul and he mostly didn’t agree with Reverend Solomon’s newfangled ideas. He favored the Old Testamennt and loudly said so. He stared at Marty and shook his head because he’d asked him to let this sermon pass; it wasn’t needed.
Marty looked directly at him and his friends on the first and second rows and his voice grew softer, warmer. “Yes, our Master gives us many precious gifts, but from our sexual-sensual complex comes our most magnificent: our wondrous children. You’ve watched a mother’s face as she nurses her babe. You’ve seen electricity flash between two lovers; you’ve seen them hold hands or kiss, enraptured. And your own heart swells and you glow for them, as you glow when it happens to you.”
Roman Pittman coughed loud and long and a woman in another pew to their left frowned, certain that he was doing it on purpose.
“If ever God’s hand is shown in this world, it’s shown in the complex that brings us into this world, that is responsible for us being here.” Marty raised his hand in exhortation. “But this is a precious gift we all too often do not understand, a gift we deny, denigrate and insult. We mock it, deride it, we ‘play it cheap.’” A light sprinkling of applause from the balcony where so many young people sat. Roman Pittman glared up fiercely.
“We have exploded into a new sexuality in which all too often anything goes. I like to say that we’re doing it more and enjoying it less.” He paused here and looked around. “And we’re enjoying it less because without respect, love, and tenderness, sex is an empty activity. Exciting yes, giving relief. However, a great therapist, the late Dr. Theodor Reik, has pointed out that mere sex gives relief, yet can never give release.
“And it is release that we cry out for. Release to be ourselves, to love ourselves and our fellow men, to honor each other, and above all to respect ourselves and each other, the God who fashioned us and Christ, who died that we might live.”
This time the congregation broke into generous applause, but Roman Pittman and his friends figuratively sat on their hands.
“Young people clap most loudly here, and I want to caution them in an age where one size is deemed to fit all, for a good relationship that you will enjoy and that will nurture you, you need to make sure you have the proper person, place and time.” He repeated the last few words and let them sink in.
Marty frowned and looked thoughtful then. “The very word we use to express our joy at this act of procreation is all to often the same one used to portray indignation at being betrayed, cheated, lied to.” They certainly understood him here and many nodded. His congregation was rapt and mostly with him, the charismatic man of God who for a few youthful years had led a fairly dissolute life that they had heard about, that he sometimes talked about in sermons. He had lived in New Orleans, graduated from LSU, was the great nephew of Charlie Cartier, the famous late firebrand televangelist who had trained him. His parishioners believed in him, would have followed him anywhere.
Marty’s sermons were never more than a half hour and this would be no different. He went on to ask that they never despise and reject their sexual-sensual complex, that they, indeed, use it to enrich the world they lived in. Take God and Christ into any relationship they had. Let love and respect be the foundation of their lives and never be ashamed of this magnficent gift.
The congregation had begun to burst into applause more often when Roman Pittman nodded to his minions, turned and nodded to the row of people behind him, and they stood and stiffly marched out. Marty simply stopped talking as others and ushers frowned. Midway the huge room, Roman turned, looked long and hard at Marty and shook his head sorrowfully, then turned again and proceeded down the aisle, looking first to the left, then to the right as he led his people out.
Parishioners would tell Marty a bit later that this was one of his best sermons and he would be deluged with hugs, kisses, handshakes. But right now, he smiled inwardly and continued his plea that his congregation study and know the fullness of life that God had granted them, complete with ecstasy and satisfaction. But liquor didn’t bring it, nor did drugs, nor sex without care and respect. No, he assured them, it came from loving and accepting love, God’s and Jesus’s, and the love of their fellow man.
He advised that they get help if they needed it in handling their sexual-sensual complex. Have faith in, believe in, trust in God.” All this with heavy, frequent applause. And he ended with a beatific smile as he said, “Try it, won’t you? I believe you’ll like it!”
He finished to long and heartwarming applause as the cameras focused on him, and decided he would keep the footage of Pittman and company walking out.
As Marty went toward his office, Della’s voice on his walkie-talkie warned him, “Pittman and crew are waiting for you, Boss, and I can gauge the mood. I think they’re waiting to pounce and I want you to be ready. Grea-a-a-a-t sermon!”
Onstage then, in pale blue robes, Sheba and four backup singers were greeted with thunderous applause when she announced that they would sing ’Scandalize My Name,’ a Negro spiritual. The song spoke of those who were friendly to you, but no sooner than your back was turned, raked your name through the mud. Their movements were lively and humorous and a major draw. Then ‘Go Down, Moses,’ and here Sheba’s magnificent and full-bodied lyric soprano rose clear and full of rapture.
Sheba’s heart leaped as she sang the songs, danced and lived on a plane of love that she wished everyone to feel the way she felt it.
Marty walked thru the outer office, nodding warmly at the followers of Roman Pittman who sought to freeze him with their disapproval. He and Della exchanged glances and he went into his office where the old man sat stiffly in a chair facing Marty’s desk.
“Welcome, Brother,” Marty said gently. We could sit in these other chairs and be more comfortable.”
“Comfort’s not what I came for, Reverend,” Roman said brusquely. “I demanded that your secretary seat me in here so I could cool down. I’ve got a master’s in agriculture, a big farm and I’ve been rich all my life. I say that to say I’m civilized, but I almost forgot that this Sunday.”
Marty glanced at the man thoughtfully. “You didn’t want me to preach this sermon, Mr. Pittman, but I found it necessary. I feel one of the major reasons our world is going out of control is the horrendous concept we have of what God has given us, our sexuality and our sensuality.”
Roman Pittman held up his hand. “Hold on man! More like what the devil shoves down our throat. As you know I’ve got two daughters living in my house and I tell them daily what I told my late wife when they don’t dress or act the way I know they should: My house is a house of righteous women, not whores, and you will act accordingly.”
Roman’s oldest daughter, Stella, flashed into Marty’s mind. They had been friends in high school and he knew she hated her father. She had told him that Roman molested her, would not let her date at sixteen and constantly verbally abused her and her sisters. The last time he’d seen her, she had told him she was running away before she killed her father. He had been alarmed, had sought to help her, but she refused and he had never seen her again.
Now, it was as if Roman had read his mind as he cleared his throat. “I’ve heard my oldest and wildest, Stella, is dead, God rest her soul. At least she won’t be consorting with the devil anymore.”
“I’m so sorry. I hadn’t heard.”
“Oh, it happened a couple of years ago I heard down in New Orleans, that fleshpit of iniquity. But this is not about Stella, Reverend. I’m asking you to stop preaching the kind of filth you preached today, or I’m going to have to go against you. Get a real man of God in this church, and not one who claims to worship God, but flirts with the devil. God put man out of Eden when he discovered his nakedness. Shame and sex will always go hand in hand. Sex is wrong, but a necessary evil to bring children into this world. But we don’t have to revel in it, enjoy it. Will you do this, stop this evil? Or do I have to fight you?”
Marty sighed. “I’ve enjoyed your cooperation, Brother Pittman, and I want that to continue. Can we talk further about this? Over lunch perhaps?”
“Not as long as you’re consorting with the devil, pretending to be a man of God, pastor. No sir, this is a duel between good and evil, no less. And good and God are both on my side.”
So begins another battle in Marty’s life that is growing full of battles. Marty’s faith is strong, but his trials are many and like Job, he will come to wonder if God has deserted him. Please stay tuned for more on the saga of Solomon and Sheba, their church and their friends in the town of Marigold, on Eastern Shore, Maryland. See you next time!