Many members of a church, in a town in the North of England, had moved away leaving behind only a small number of elderly families. As a result the buildings of the church were neglected for years.
Before Christmas, 1985, some of the congregation met. They decided that, to prepare for the feast, they would undertake the renovation of the buildings. They exerted a great effort, only to have it destroyed by a severe storm. A large section of plaster had broken off to reveal a large crack and gap in the wall.
The congregation cleaned the church and the furniture, but was unable to do anything about the crack that had appeared in the wall. At noon, the pastor of the church was passing by an auction hall and noticed a beautifully embroidered white tablecloth. He felt that it would be most suitable to cover the crack and bought it with a few shillings.
Then, at a bus stop, the pastor noticed a woman who was weeping and realized that she was deeply distressed. He asked her to go with him to the church and there he heard her story. She suddenly stopped speaking and concentrated her gaze on the white tablecloth. The pastor asked her about her silence and she replied that the tablecloth had belonged to her. Her husband had given it to her and it had the first three letters of her name. She then told him how she and her husband had lived in Vienna.
During the war, her husband had been placed in a camp, and she had received news of his death. She had come to Great Britain to work as a nanny in a city close to this church. When she came to the city, however, she found that she had lost her job opportunity.
The pastor was very moved by her story and asked her to take the tablecloth as a memory of her husband’s who died during the war. When she realized that the tablecloth was intended to cover the crack in the church wall, and especially at Christmas, she refused to accept it. She said that she wished to give something to any person or family, during this season, but as she had nothing to give she would give up this tablecloth for the church.
The pastor tried very hard to give her the tablecloth but she refused. She felt that if the pastor refused to accept it, she would be deprived of giving a very dear thing to her to God in this blessed feast.
A few hours after the woman left the church, it was filled with people for Christmas celebrations. At the end of the service, everyone returned to his/her homes except for one man who approached the pastor asking, “Where did this tablecloth come from?”
“I bought it from an auction. Why do you ask?”
“It was a gift from me to my wife when we lived in Vienna.”
“Do you still live there?”
“No. My wife and I were separated during the war. My wife was sent to a camp and they informed me of her death. I came to England to repair watches in this city.”
The pastor was astonished at the amazing events that were unfolding before him. He informed the husband that his wife was at church only hours earlier and that she believed her husband had died. He told him that she had come to England to work as a nanny and gave him the address of the family for which she had come to work.
The husband went to the family and learned of his wife’s address from a letter she had sent after her arrival.
In the early morning, the husband met with his wife after many years’ separation. They rejoiced that their marriage had been restored as a result of the wife foregoing her tablecloth to cover a cracked church wall.
Many times we believe that our affairs are in ruins,
And do not discover the unseen hands of God that is working for our benefit,
The hand of the Almighty who has even numbered our hair.
The works of love to God and people lead our lives secretly.
And because of them He directs events in our favor, without our discernment.
Let us throw our bread upon the face of the waters, that it may return to us one day.
(11) Naismith, Archibald 2400 Outlines, Notes, Quotes, Anecdotes for Sermons. Vol. 2. 40.
Escape for your Life
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