Cedric the Salesman

This story and the one in the previous entry were the sermons from the last two weeks.  A number of people have asked for them, so I thought I’d make them a little more widely available.  When I read the first one I got to the end, stopped, and left the pulpit without comment.  The second one I stayed in the pulpit and asked questions like "What was Mike’s problem?  What could he do about it? How is our situation like Mike’s?"  and got some wonderful responses – including some good, strong critique of the assumptions behind the story!!  Yay for critical listeners! 
Reading them on screen you’ll miss a bit; they’re intended to be read aloud and a lot of meaning was conveyed in the delivery.  Cedric’s voice is eager and pressured, moving towards uncertainty and questions.  Mike’s story (the first half) is narrated in something only a little above a monotone and with over-long pauses.  It’s    ve-ry   s-l-o-o-o-w.  Until the second half when things snap back to normal.  Anyway, here they are…
 

*Knock, Knock, Knock.*

 

I answered the door,

and there on the step stood a young man in a nice suit

radiating anxiety and after-shave.

He had a suitcase in his hand

and a grin made of gruyere.

 

“Good afternoon sir!  Isn’t it a beautiful day!

Don’t you just ache to find someone to thank on a day like this?

Well, you just happen to be in luck!

I have here a full and comprehensive range of religions

and all of them available at less than retail rates!

Why don’t we open it up and have a look, sir?

Have you ever considered the mysteries of the universe, sir?

I just know that I’ll have something in here

perfectly tailored to your individual needs!”

 

Somehow he’d got a hold of my hand

and was shaking my arm furiously

as he backed me back into the lounge.

“Ahh, I’m not sure I…”

 

“Of course you’re not sure!

“Who can be sure of anything in this day and age?!

But with the right religion

you can have certainty!

Tuck a sacred book under your arm

and you can relax in the certain knowledge that you’re right

and everyone else is wrong

and all those tricky questions will just disappear!

Poof! Like that!

Here – try this one for size.”

and he shoved a fat book into my armpit and took a step back.

 

“Oh, Sir!” he gushed.

You look so… so… Authoritative!

So wise, and right. 

That look suits you, Sir!”

“Oh.. ah.. thanks.  What book is it?”

“Doesn’t matter, sir, doesn’t matter!  Any book will do!”

“Well, it’s a bit heavy…”

“Law book, sir.  Law.  Very comprehensive.  Solid.

But look!

If you feel it doesn’t suit you

try something lighter!

Here’s A course in conversations with a reluctant Messiah,

A beautiful azure cover with a faint flush of gold on the edges,

or, if you’re that way inclined,

we have a pink cover too!”

 

“No, I don’t think I’m that interested in these books.”

 

“Well then sir,

how about something a little more… natural.”

He lifted something from the case

 that looked like it was mostly string

with bits of crystal, feathers, leather,

and perhaps the odd insect too.

“Just hang this where-ever you like,

decide that it represents whatever you think,

and discover instant harmony with the universe,

deep spiritual insight

and all the neighbour-hood ladies will be very impressed.

Or….”

 

he whipped out what looked like a third form chemistry set.

 

“If you have a specific interest in that direction,

light the purple-scented candle,

mix these herbs with sacred waters from the spring of Brighilda the bountiful

smear it over your naked body

and dance on the lawn of the lady in question by the light of the gibbous moon

and see what develops!  Eh? Eh?”

 

“That seems a little… carnal for religion doesn’t it?”

 

“Got to keep in touch with the natural nature, sir,

– but if you’re looking for something a little more spiritual

we have here every resource you might need

to make contact with your dearly departed

or, if you prefer, the spirit guide of your choice.

I understand Pocahontas is still very popular…”

 

He was pulling something that looked like a roulette wheel from his case

when God walked in from the kitchen

where he’d been drying the lunch dishes.

“Oh is that a Ouija board?  I haven’t seen one of them in years?”

and he walked over, draped his tea-towel over the salesman,

and picked up the board.

“Well, at least it’s wood.  But rather poorly made. 

Look here – these joints won’t last more than a year. 

Guarantee will have expired by then I expect.”  He shook his head.

 

“This is God,” I introduced him.  “He’s a carpenter.”

 

The salesman’s face sort of went …immobile. 

He knew he was supposed to be smiling in a friendly way

but it looked like his facial muscles had forgotten how to do it.

“But… But… But…”

“You didn’t know I lived with my friends?” Jesus asked.

“But… what about transcendence?

What about holiness?

What about Glory?

God doesn’t wash dishes!” 

The poor man looked like he’d been deeply insulted.

“Doing dishes is just ordinary!  God is supposed to be…

Amazing!  Different!  Like nothing else!”

“So,” said Jesus,

“What part of a bloke doing the dishes in the middle of the day doesn’t qualify as amazing and different?”

 

“Now that isn’t very fair”, I said. 

“Poor.. what’s your name?”

“Cedric.”

“Poor Cedric here does have a point. 

It is hard for people to get their mind around the incarnation.”

 

“Wait a minute!” said Cedric.  “I know Latin!  I know this one!

‘In-Carn-ation.’  ‘In –the-flesh.’ 

You mean…

God is in the flesh?

But you were just telling me that you thought my religions were too ‘carnal’!”

 

“You were?” said Jesus.  “Why was that?”

 

“What I meant,” I explained, “was that some of those religions expect me to act like there is nothing more than flesh

– to live as if the pleasures of the flesh

are the only good things –or” I said, looking at the law book,

“as if they were all and always evil,

and we had to keep ourselves rigidly under lock and key.”

 

“That’s right,” Said Jesus.

“There’s nothing wrong with the flesh in itself,

after all, here I am, in the flesh.

It’s when you start to worship it

that you get into trouble.

It’s just a matter of keeping it in perspective – my perspective.”

 

We turned back to Cedric

who suddenly looked a little shifty.

“Why don’t you tell me more about your perspective?” he asked.

“What is it like being God?

What do you think of the competition?

Is it lonely at the top?

What do you want to tell the world?”

 

Jesus pointed at a lump in the salesman’s jacket pocket,

and said “How about you turn off that voice recorder first?”

 

Cedric’s hand leapt into his pocket

and hit a switch with an audible ‘click’,

 as his face flushed bright red.

 

“Looking for a tabloid deal, Cedric? 

I’m not for sale.

My words aren’t for sale.

If you try to trade what I offer

you change it into just another religion

and it loses all its value;

like that cut-rate bag of bilge you have there.

Now, why don’t you sit down while I finish making the coffee.

Back in a second…”

 

And Jesus whipped his towel off Cedric’s shoulder

and disappeared back into the kitchen.

He even remembered to open the door first.

 

I sat down and looked into the open suitcase

as Cedric collapsed onto the couch. 

 

“What’s it like?  Trying to sell religion?”

 

He leaned forward looking all eager;

“Interested?  You too can have a wonderful career,

introducing people to a life-time of spiritual fulfilment

by simply taking our guru-grocers guaranteed seven-day course,

purchasing your starter pack,

and graduating to the next level of human consciousness!”

 

“What?”

 

“And I’ll be your sponsor,

for the small consideration of no more than 50% of your initial profits.”

 

“Oh.  Sort of like pyramid selling for the soul?”

 

“No! Not at all! 

Well, not much.

Not really.

Only a little bit

All right, a lot.

Yes.”

 

“Is that how you got into it?”

 

“Well, Yes.

I thought I’d finally found a job

where I would be doing something worth while.

Surely everyone can benefit from a little religion –

maybe even a lot of religion!

And I’m actually pretty good at it…”

 

“I can see that!”

 

“But I’m beginning to wonder, you know?

When the same chap buys the complete religious law compendium

including the stones for stoning the sinners,

and love potion number nine witchcraft kit…”

 

“Pretty common is it?”

 

“Yeah.  Most people want something of everything.

Your mate, Jesus, now.  What would he make of that?”

 

“I doubt he’d be very surprised, you know?

He’s been around a while

and he knows what we’re like.

You should ask him yourself, though.”

 

The strong smell of coffee wafting from the kitchen

was followed by Jesus carrying a tray of mugs.

“Coffee.  You like it white without sugar, Cedric?

Here you go.  And, yes, it’s decaf.”

 

“Decaf!?” I said.  “Are they all Decaf?”

 

Jesus rolled his eyes. 

“Far be it from me to deprive you of your drugs.

Yours is the one on the left, melting the spoon.”

 

And God sat down beside Cedric on the couch,

blowing the steam from a mochachino with marshmallows.

 

Cedric sipped his coffee and sighed deeply.

“That’s exactly right.  How did you know?”

 

“God, remember?”

 

“Oh. Yes.

But… It’s sort of hard to think of you like that

when you’re sitting beside me on a couch,

and you look very …ordinary.”

 

“I am very ordinary.

100% human being –

And 100% God.”

 

“So… what do you think of my business, then?

Religion?

Do you like it?”

 

Jesus poked at the contents of the case.

“It’s mostly just very sad,” he said. 

“What you’ve got here is all the evidence anybody needs

that human beings really, really want to have a God

and are really, really scared that they might find one!

Most of this is all about how to keep religion tame –

sort of like choosing a picture of a lion for your wall

or even visiting a caged animal in a zoo.

When what you really want to do is to get lost in the bush

and meet the real thing.

Of course, it might be the last thing you ever do meet.

And some of this is a bit scungy too…”

He picked up the Ouija board again. 

“I mean, besides the poor production,

and the fact that it’s made from non-renewable hardwoods,

this sort of thing won’t give you lions

as much as it will deliver you to the hyenas.

Talk to your dead as much as you like –

But don’t try to make them talk back!”

 

“But… what about you?

I’m talking to you;

Aren’t you a dead person?

Or was that thing with the cross just a trick after all?”

 

Jesus lowered his head, then looked out the window.

“No,” he said, “no trick.

I died on that hill, and” he turned back to Cedric,

“You did too.

If you can believe it, the whole human race died there with me.

Because of that one death, the power of death is broken

and…” he leaned back and grinned,

“because I am alive

everyone who dies there with me lives with me too!”

 

“Lives with you?”

 

“Here and now, at your place.

And later – party at my place!”

 

I leaned over to Cedric

“I should warn you,

if you invite him to live with you

you’ll soon find out that it’s more like you’re living with him.

He’s at home anywhere in the world.”

 

“And he always makes perfect coffee?”

 

“He’s been known to produce some pretty good wine, too.

Whatever he does for you

it will be just right.”

 

“Living?

With God?

In the Flesh?”

 

Cedric looked into the suitcase.

 

“Would I have to give up my religions?”

 

“You can have them if you want,” said Jesus,

“It’s always your choice.

Now,” he took the cups back to the kitchen,

“I’ve got work to do.

I’ll call on you later, Cedric,

when you’ve had a chance to think about things.”

 

I helped the salesman put his things back into the case,

and took him to the door.

 

“Will he really call me? When?”

 

I shrugged.  “Can’t tell.

But it’ll be at the right time –

 not necessarily a convenient time

but the right time;

and you will recognise his voice when you hear it.”

 

He stood for a few seconds,

looking back into the lounge,

then handed me the suitcase.

“Would you get rid of this for me? 

It’s just more than I want to be carrying around at the moment.”

 

The last I saw of him, he was walking down the road,

and Jesus was at his side.

He was certainly a different man to the one

 who had first knocked on my door.

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