Sunday, June 3, 2007
The Mississippi squirrel
About twenty years after Ray Stevens wrote “Mississippi Squirrel Revival,” something very similar actually happened.
The famous song told about visiting Mississippi and experiencing “the day the squirrel went berserk in the First Self-Righteous Church in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.”
Ironically, a squirrel really did go berserk in the First Baptist Church in the sleepy little town of Poplarville. Although it does not rhyme with “hallelujah,” Poplarville and Pascagoula are both in south Mississippi, and since Poplarville, with 2,500 residents, is about ten times smaller than Pascagoula, it well qualifies as a sleepy town. And what happened there made Ray Stevens sound like a prophet.
I was pastor of First Baptist Church of Poplarville from 1991 to 1999. A few months before I moved to Georgia, we were having problems with squirrels around the church. One day a deacon and I chased one into the choir room, where he purchased his freedom by flying out of the window and landing on the street two stories below. On another occasion, a squirrel got in a transformer and sacrificed its life to put the church in the dark.
After I moved to Georgia, Butch Knight became pastor of the church in Poplarville.
During Brother Butch’s ministry, Poplarville had “The Great Squirrel Incident.” He says that it all began on a Sunday morning in January 2002, about three minutes before the beginning of the worship service. The pastor noticed several choir members standing up and looking at something. Then he heard a scream, and he saw a squirrel leap up on top of the grand piano. His bushy tail waved, and he held his little hands in front of himself, as if he was greeting the congregation.
The men of the church went after him, taking off their suit coats and sport coats, and throwing them at the squirrel, with no thought that if they captured the squirrel, he might shred their expensive coats to pieces.
The squirrel started making laps in front of the choir loft, trying to escape. One man in the choir aimed the deadliest missile he could find at the squirrel: a hymnal. As it missed the creature with a loud thud, the pastor wondered how he was going to tell his children’s sermon on the sacredness of life by explaining why they killed a squirrel in church.
Then the squirrel ran up the American flag pole. Next, he ran across the front of the church, and ran up the Christian flag pole. Since the men were trying to throw their coats over him, he high-tailed it toward the back of the church, running under pews. Although the pastor could not see the creature, he could tell where he was, because it looked like the congregation was doing the wave as people were jumping pews and shouting from the front pew to the back. Some people were laughing and saying aloud, “Are we in Pascagoula?” (Do I hear a hallelujah?)
At one point, the squirrel ran back into the grand piano, and they closed the lid, trapping him inside. But how could they have church with him inside the piano? So they let him out and he fled again.
At last, a fellow wearing a winter coat managed to throw it over the squirrel. The darkness inside the coat calmed the squirrel, and he grew still. The man was able to take him outside and set him free. The pastor looked at his watch. It was 11:15, and they had spent 18 minutes chasing a varmint in church.
Did the church break out in revival, as in the Ray Stevens song? Brother Butch says they mostly broke out in laughter. But since some folks were going through difficult times, it was what they needed at the time.
Some time later, the church secretary’s 9-year-old son was playing at the church, and he chased a squirrel into the worship center, where it perched on top of the flag pole. It was a weekday, not a Sunday, and nobody was there except the boy and the squirrel. The boy picked up a rubber ball, and managed to hit the squirrel on the nose. The animal fell to the floor, motionless. The little boy felt terrible, but it was too late-- the squirrel was stone dead.
Whether or not the squirrel that died that day was the same squirrel that went berserk in a Sunday service, nobody will ever know. But I do know this: you can run wild for a time, but eventually you die. The Bible says that we’re all destined to live, die, and face Judgment Day (Hebrews 9:27). As Amos 4:12 says, “prepare to meet your God.”
So if your life is going nuts, take a lesson from a squirrel. Trust in Jesus to save you from sin, and you’ll be ready for whatever life throws at you. And when that happens, your fight for survival will break out in revival, and you’ll shout “hallelujah.”
Copyright 2006 by Bob Rogers