I have most of my teeth, and, at sixty years of age, I am mighty thankful for the molars I still possess. I know enough about teeth to suspect that those I no longer have are wisdom teeth or those at the back of my mouth which proved immune to periodic stints of confectionary consumption early in life.
Whenever I brush my teeth, I am reminded of a story which has circulated in pastoral ministry circles for some years.
A pastor had chosen for the text of his sermon a passage from the Gospel of Luke referring to hell. Approaching the end of his message, he wanted to make an appeal to his listeners to, in his words, “prepare for heaven and escape hell.” He exclaimed, “For the Bible says that in hell ‘there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”
A minister is seldom interrupted by a parishioner in the midst of a sermon, but this time proved to be the exception.
“Pasteur!” a male voice suddenly called.
The pastor placed his hand to his glasses and focused on an elderly gentleman sitting at the back of the sanctuary. Rather than stifle the speaker and perhaps create hard feelings, the pastor said, “Yes, Sir, what’s on your mind?”
“Well, Pasteur, you was talkin’ ’bout ’ell h’as a place wid weepin’ an’ gnashin’ o’teet, right?”
“Yes. That’s what the Bible says.”
“Well, Pasteur, dat cain’t work fer h’all o’we.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Well, wha’ ’bout we poor ol’ people h’ain’t got nar toot h’in h’our ’eads?”
I’ve never heard that one before, the pastor thought, straining to keep a straight face, while his congregation erupted in raucous laughter. How to respond? In one version of the story, he replied, “I’m sure teeth will be provided for such people.”
He struggled unsuccessfully to recapture his congregation’s attention. Eventually, he brought his sermon to a close.
Incidentally, none of his parishioners responded to his appeal to “prepare for heaven and escape hell.”