“Thank you, Lord, for seeing me to another Sunday morning,” he said, as he lifted the roof of the small chicken coop. The hens had given him two eggs this morning; he cooked them out back over an open fire with a can of Spam, then took it inside to eat.
The cuckoo clock announced eight o’clock. He shuddered, then chided himself. “Your great-grandfather stood unafraid, preaching the Word to the brothers in Alabama,” he reminded himself. “Your flock needs the Lord, more than anyone. The Joneses have never turned away from the Lord’s call, no matter how difficult, and neither will you.”
The climb to the bell tower was tiring, and Zachariah could smell his own sweat in the still, cool air of the stairwell. But this was the call to worship; his flock would heed the call and come. He stuffed cotton in his ears before pulling the rope.
Across the weed-infested fields, across the blighted cityscape, the pure tones of the church bell summoned the flock to worship. Zachariah could see them, shuffling along the dirty sidewalks, faithful to the call. His heart went out to them; this was not the mission he would have chosen, but he himself would be faithful to God’s call.
As usual, the church was packed, and Zachariah was thankful for the broken windows that let in fresh air. “Good morning, brethren,” he called from the pulpit. “Let us begin our time of worship by lifting our voices to the Lord. Hymn number 553.”
The voices were as mushy as always, but they gave it their all. This was, after all, their favorite hymn:
And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give for His almighty grace!
What troubles have we seen, what mighty conflicts past,
Fightings without, and fears within, since we assembled last!
Yet out of all, the Lord hath brought us by his love;
And still He doth His help afford, and hides our life above.
They seated themselves, some with more ease than others, and Zachariah began his sermon.
As usual, he preached about overcoming temptation, endurance under persecution, and facing their tormenters with grace and humility. These lessons needed to be reinforced every week, especially in the face of threats and worse. Zachariah’s own great-grandfather had faced the same in his day; the white folks burned down one of his churches and tried to burn another, and even shot him once. These days, it was a Sunday morning bombing that Zachariah feared the most. “If only those who would persecute you,” he said, “would join us here, and see the work that we do, perhaps then they would turn away from their sin and unite with the Lord in love.” The flock nodded; many grunted agreement. Zachariah preached on. He never had to worry about losing their attention.
But at last, came time for the altar call. “The Lord gave all men and women free will,” he reminded them, “and He allows us the consequences of our choices. But His word says, ‘he who would keep his life shall lose it, and he who lays down his life for My sake shall keep it.’ And so, the altar is always open, and all God’s creatures may seek salvation.”
A long pause, then one of the zombies stood and shuffled up the aisle. As with the living, others would follow when another led, and a dozen more joined him there. One by one, they moaned their final confessions to the Lord, and passed away peacefully there at the altar.
“Go in peace, and in the love of the Lord,” Zachariah told the remaining zombies. “And you need not wait for Sunday to come to His altar. Resist the temptations of the flesh, and you will be given a crown above.”
“Amen,” several responded, then they carried away those who had gone to the altar.
Zachariah watched the solemn recession. It was important work he did here, and he wished the other living souls understood that. Zombie attacks were down, and their numbers were dwindling without the need for shotguns or firebombs. Nobody wanted to be a zombie, even the zombies themselves, and there was still a spark of free will in those decaying, hungering bodies. Surely the Lord would bring home those souls who were, after all, only victims of circumstance.
Lyrics: “And Are We Yet Alive” by Charles Wesley, 1749.