That Old-Time Religion

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Contributor: Donal Mahoney

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When I was young and randy,
I went to church every Sunday
to keep my parents happy.
"Almighty God has given us
the Ten Commandments,
not the Ten Suggestions,"
the old preacher used to say.
Now I'm old and randy
but I always go to church
yet I seldom hear a sermon.
What I hear now is something
preachers call a homily.

Homilies are nice.
They let you leave church
in a good mood, ravenous
for the Sunday roast.
But most homilies shoot blanks.
They seldom strike a chord.
Machine-gun sermons
when I was young and randy
sprayed words all over church,
and if they didn't hit you,
you were bobbin' and duckin',
the old folks used to say.

Homilies seldom mention sin
and almost never mention hell.
When I was young and randy,
sin and hell were the DNA
of any decent sermon.
Now, homilies explain
how much God loves me
and italicize that basic truth
over and over by quoting
passages from Scripture.

Few homilies, however, note
that God has standards
and expects His flock to meet them.
"The elevator goes both ways,"
the old preacher used to say.
His sermons often scared me
and I used to stay scared until
Monday afternoon at school
when I'd let Florence Puppo,
who was tall and fetching,
go upstairs in front of me.
God loves Florence, too,
I'd tell myself, so why not
let her sway her way
up the stairs ahead of me.

Homilies are reassuring
but I don't know if I'd be
going to church now
if I had heard homilies
instead of sermons back
when I was young and randy.
A good sermon can leave a scar
old men scratch when the years
go South for the winter.
"God's not playin' games!"
the old preacher used to say.
I'd like to see that preacher
in our pulpit now.
He'd use his blowtorch
of that Old-Time Religion
and let the flames flare.
He'd make the congregation
bob and duck every Sunday
instead of sitting up straight
and smiling on occasion.

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Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


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