Taking Up Serpents… An Act of Faith
By Rev. Billy Ray Sunday
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<chris†wire> Regardless of how one might feel about spiders and snakes, they too are God’s annoying little creatures, who like us do the work of our Lord & Savior. Not having souls these often frightening pests will never see Heaven, but it is important to remember that they, like us are at the command of the Lord.
So you can tell that I’m not one who has ever been comfortable around things that slither or have more legs than I do. This is one human frailty I posses. As one can image being the reverend of a Signs Following Church I am often cornered by parishioners, locals, and school children and grilled about the contradiction between my humanity and my faith.
I admit it took me sometime to digest my own thoughts; having one’s faith questioned isn’t always easy to deal with, and in my profession it can be poisoning your own well water, so to speak.
My life in the ministry began after seminary in a Southern Pentecostal Church similar to the one I was raised in. I was preaching in Mobile then, a much more densely populated area than where I live today. No one was ever waving snakes around or drinking poison, nor had I ever considered either to be apart of any Christian worship.
Brother Dan McKenna in Worship
But I had heard about the bizarre serpent churches located in the rural outlining areas. In the ministry these snake worshipers who called themselves Christians seemed anything but. In fact I recall them being the butt of a joke on more than one occasion.
It was about eight years into my ministry when I was touring a number of Pentecostal Church’s throughout the South, and by chance one Sunday morning I stepped through the doors of one out of the way church and sat listening to the sermon as the pastor delivered one of the most passionate services I’ve ever attended.
I was so impressed that he preached in the “old school” or the King James style while speaking with such authority and power. I spent maybe 40 minutes listening to this pastor deliver his hell fire & damnation sermon like an old pro. I knew I had to introduce myself and speak with him. Then it happened… they brought out the snakes.
No longer was I hearing the man’s words, my only interest at the time being self-preservation I sought the nearest exit. Taking to flight I then heard the pastor call out to me… “Young man,” he said. I stopped turned and looked to the alter and he said… “Have you heard of Mark 16:18?”
As my heart was pounding and I’m sure I was still moving slowly towards the exit my mind processed Mark 16:18. Mark 16:18 King James Version (KJV)… “18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Fellowship Celebration at Rock of Ages Holiness Church
It was then that it hit me like a ton of bricks. These people were not of some heathen whack-o cult. I had listened to the pastor and was greatly moved by his sermon. He had impressed me, and now he was waving around a rattlesnake. But it added up, I knew these folks were Christians like the rest and their taking up of serpents was an act of faith nothing more.
I in no way was interested in returning to my seat however now that 5 or 6 people all had snakes and were wondering about; I remained standing and close to the exit, but I knew why they did what they did.
Today many years later I’m tending to a small Alabama Signs Following country church and my faith has overcome my fear. I’m no big fan of these creatures mind you and wouldn’t want to find one crawling through my yard, but when I take up serpents now I too have no fear for God’s will be done. If its my time to go and the Lord commands the viper to strike I can live knowing it is His will.
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