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The Whole Bale

It's the young pastor's first winter in his new parish in Wyoming. He's fresh from the city, and just getting to know the ways of this remote ranching community.

On one particular Sunday, a blizzard hits.  He pulls on his parka, struggles through the high winds to the church next door, fires up the kerosene stove, and waits to see if anyone shows up for worship.

At 5 minutes to 11, he's just about to pack it in when the door to the sanctuary opens, sending a blast of cold air into the sanctuary.  A lone rancher, covered with snow, stumbles in and sits down heavily in the back pew.

The two of them wait in silence a few more minutes, then the minister walks down the aisle and says, "It's just the two of us.  What do you think?  Should we just call it off?"

The rancher gives him a quizzical look, then says, "I don't want to tell you your business, Pastor, but on my ranch, if I've got a sheep stuck out on the high meadow in a blizzard, I make sure he gets fed."

"You're right," admits the Pastor. "What was I thinking?"  Whereupon he proceeds to conduct the entire worship service, from the Call to Worship right on through to the Benediction.  The organist couldn't make it in through the snow, but that doesn't stop them from singing every stanza of every hymn, a capella.  Before the prayer of the day, he asks his worshiper if he's got any joys or concerns to share with the faith community.  He brings the man the offering plate, and they sing the Doxology as he brings it back up the aisle, with the one offering envelope sitting in it.  After the closing hymn and Benediction, the pastor walks down the aisle to the church door, and stands ready to shake hands with his flock of one.

The man gets up wearily, and walks over to where the pastor is standing, hand outstretched in greeting.  "Thank you, Pastor," says he.  "I suppose I should have made it clear that, on my ranch, I make sure the sheep gets fed - but I don't give him the whole bale!"