The Stranger in the Black Suit A Parable
One bright Sabbath day a stranger in a black suit made his way toward a medium-sized town. Happily he stopped his car at a drugstore as he came into the city. He went inside and looked in a telephone book to find the location of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
The church was not listed in the yellow section, but surely it would be in the front part of the book, he told himself. He searched first in the "S" section and then in the "A" section. It was not listed.
Disappointed, he addressed the man at the cigar counter. "My good friend," he said, "can you tell me where the Seventh-day Adventist church is?"
The man hesitated. "Let's see; let's see. I think it's over on Oak Street. Yes, it's over on Oak Street," and with considerable pointing and arm waving he told the stranger how to get there.
There was indeed a church on Oak Street, but great was the disappointment of the stranger in the black suit when he read the neat sign with the gold letters out in front: "Church of the Latter-day Saints." He shook his head and was about to get into his car when he noticed a gentleman reading a newspaper at the nearby bus stop.
"Pardon me, my friend," he said. "Do you know where the Seventh-day Adventist church is, or perhaps I can glance at your paper? Some news or listing of services may be on the Saturday church page." Since the bus-waiting gentleman had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist church, he passed over his paper to the stranger. There was nothing on the church page about Adventists.
The stranger thanked him for his trouble and went on, this time to the police station. "They know everything at the police station," he said to himself. "Certainly they will know where the Adventist church is." But neither the desk sergeant nor the captain, who was called away from a card game, could give him any information. "Seems to me there was an outfit called Adventists in a store building on Riverdale Road," said the captain, scratching his bald head. But the sergeant corrected him. "That's the Jehovah Witness place."
Then the captain remembered that there was quite a big church directory at the McLaughlin Hotel, just two blocks over on Broadway. The stranger thanked the policemen for their courtesy, looked at his watch, and hurried to the hotel. He found the directory in the lobby, but alas, there was no mention of the Adventist church.
As he left the entrance of the hotel he encountered a young woman, and almost in despair asked her if she had ever heard of any Seventh-day Adventists in town. He was delighted when she said, "Why, yes, I know them very well. My aunt is an Adventist. She always goes to church on Saturday. They don't eat pork either," she added, as if this demanded special emphasis.
The stranger pressed for the address of the church, which she gave him.
With new hope he drove quickly out Bluff Road. Near the edge of town he came upon a little frame building set back from the gravel street. The church had once been painted white, but now it had faded into a weather-beaten gray. A pane of glass was broken in one of the windows at the side of the building. What looked like a couple of tracts, stained with mud from early spring rains, lay under a dead spiraea bush near the entrance. A rusty downspout from the roof had seen better days. An attempt had been made to cut the grass in front of the church, but weeds at both sides of the building were a foot high.
With a heavy heart the stranger in the black suit got out of his car and walked toward a sign near the sidewalk. The paint was badly chipped at the top, but he could make out some of the lettering. "Seventh-day Adventist Church," it said, and there was the name of the pastor. It looked like "Elder R. J. McBride."
Just then a little girl with flying pigtails ran from the building. The stranger spoke to her. "Tell me, little sister, is Pastor McBride the preacher here?"
"Oh, no," said the little girl. "Pastor Thompson is our minister. Pastor McBride left a year ago," and she went skipping down the street.
Obviously troubled, the stranger glanced at the sign and then at the church. But suddenly a look of amazement and understanding came over his face.
"Why, of course," he said to himself. "Obviously these good Adventist people have all moved on. It just isn't possible that God's remnant church could be so little known and so unmindful of its responsibilities in this community. We know we must let the light of truth shine brightly in every village, town, and city.
This is not the Seventh-day Adventist church I am looking at. This is some new little group that has not even bothered to take down the Adventist sign."
And the stranger in the black suit went on his way rejoicing.
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