The Bullets of God

The old Lutheran Church in Du Bois, Pennsylvania, seemed an unlikely place for the squirming Thompson kid on a stuffy Sunday night long ago. He was disinterested, bored, nerves ready to explode. But a thought suddenly hit him like a bullet: Some day you are going to preach from that pulpit.

He shook off the thought, and as the days passed he almost forgot the vivid impression he had received that Sunday night.

Entering adolescence, W. F. Thompson lost all interest in church. Other less noble, more appealing activities drew his attention, and Trinity Lutheran Church became a faded memory.

At age seventeen, Thompson joined the Marines and emerged from boot camp a savage fighter. He seized the violence of war like an alcoholic grabbing a bottle. He craved blood. “In combat, I enjoyed killing,” he recalled, “especially with a bayonet.”
After the war, Thompson moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he went into business. One Friday a man entered his office and, brandishing a gun, demanded money from the firm’s safe. Thompson’s fingers curled around an imaginary bayonet. Every fiber in him itched to tackle the gunman, but the danger to others was too great.

Suddenly a customer entered the room, and the thief, unnerved, darted away. Thompson pursued him out of the building and down the street. As he turned the corner onto Fayetteville Street, he came upon the gunman, who was poised, waiting for him, revolver in hand. The first bullet hit Thompson in the chest. The next two struck his left shoulder and arm.

Thompson clung to life through the weekend, but on Monday the doctors gently urged his wife to call the undertaker. “He has only a few moments left,” they said. Friends gathered by his bed, and every breath appeared his last. But W.F. Thompson lingered, unconscious, clinging to life. At length, he opened his eyes and glanced about the room, trying to remember who and where he was. He spied a Bible open on the bedside table, a Gideon New Testament. Its presence angered him. Reaching over with a groan, he closed it and sank back into a stupor. The next time he opened his eyes he saw the New Testament opened as before. He managed to slam it shut before collapsing again.

When his eyes jerked open the third time, they involuntarily darted to his bedside table. The Book open again, waiting to be read. Summoning his strength, he reached over with grunt, seized it with his good arm, and prepared to hurl it across the room. But as the Bible hovered above his head, it pages opened to John 6, and the words of verse 37 hit him like a hail of bullets: All that the Father gives Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.

With trembling hands, he opened the page more carefully and read the verse again, the again and again. “Does this mean me?” he asked aloud.

“Especially you,” the Lord whispered to his heart.

And that is the message W. F. Thompson later shared when he preached his first sermon at the old Trinity Lutheran Church in Du Bois, Pennsylvania

recorded by Robert J. Morgan

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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