Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Messenger and the King of Many Faces.

The Tale Of The King Of Many Faces
This is a fun story that I tell to the children in my church to help them understand that we must come to know our Lord and King or else when he is at work in our lives we might miss seeing him. It is a little longer than most of my tales but I hope it engages the imagination.

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THE MESSENGER AND THE KING OF MANY FACES


In the old days of great empires there was an a good and kind emperor who had the custom of putting on a disguise and going out to live with the people.  Every three or four mounts he would take off his fine clothes and dress up as a peasant or laborer and spend the week living with the common people, doing their work and going through their struggles. This way he would know their needs and opinions and understand the concerns of the people.

He did this so much that the coins of the land had pictures of him not as a royal king but as a cowboy, a bricklayer, a tinsmith, a chimney sweep, butcher, and other common persons that he became for a time.  This made it hard for people to recognize the emperor and easy for the emperor to move among the common people freely.

The government officials were frustrated when they needed him to sign a bill or treaty because they couldn't find him.  It became necessary for the Parliament to request that he leave an agenda behind so they could find him because he became so good at his disguises.

There was a short war and during that time the king stayed at the palace performing his duties but when the war ended and he was longing for the adventure and discovery of the week long  masquerade.

Stan's Dispatch bag
Stan was the designated courier for the emperor that week. The messenger service had grown and each week all the couriers would be randomly drawn for their assignments for the following week.  This was to be fair since the couriers would gain part of their pay from tips.  If a letter was brought to a clerk he would give the courier a coin, but being a clerk he would only have a small coin normally a tin or iron coin. If a dispatch was sent to a magistrate he would give the courier a coin of a greater value, perhaps brass or copper.  If the courier brought a pouch of documents to a lord the lord would say, "here is something for your trouble," and he might give a coin of high value- a silver coin.  The best was to deliver papers to the royal family since they were generous and gave gold coins. With the ending of the war the gratuities were more generous since they were distributed after the documents were read or seen, if the document was a good one like a peace treaty the receiver would be glad and give a good tip, but if the letter was a complaint or summons the gratuity would be poor.  So to be fair to all the couriers the assignments were randomly drawn out of a hat so everyone had a chance to deliver to the rich and no one was delivering only to the poor and never making good tips.

Stan was glad to be delivering to the king the week the war ended, because Stan was in love to a beautiful upper class woman, Lady Matilda, who also loved him.  She was from high society and Stan was only a messenger so, he needed to prove his worth to her father who was an ambassador, also the father asked a bride price of ten gold coins.  Stan hoped the gratuities from the king on the week would be enough to pay the bride price and start them out on married life.

The sun was barely over the horizon Monday morning when Stan entered the dispatch office.  He was given a courier bag with the royal emblem on it.  "Take these directly to the King."  The director of dispatches said. "It is your lucky day, Stan, because the pouch has the peace treaty that ends the war, it needs the king' signature. Also the account of the victorious battle, and list of valiant men who will be awarded honors." The thought of gold coins flashed through Stan's mind and with a grin nodded and put the strap of the bag over his shoulder.

Stan hurried from the administration building to the palace.  The emblem on the dispatch bag was all the passport he needed to be admitted.  The palace was quiet. "Is anyone here" Stan called to the empty halls and chambers.  "I have dispatches."  He listened to his own echo.

"This way." Someone called, from far up  stairway.  Stan followed the voice to find a dull board man sitting at a desk writing in a book. "I have documents for his Majesty." Stan said.

"He is not here this week." The man looked up as he spoke. "He is visiting."

"What do you mean he is visiting? I have important papers for his Majesty to read and sign."

"He has put on the commoners clothes for the week; he will not be in the palace until next Monday."

"Where has he gone, how will I find him?"

The clerk gave Stan a piece of paper with the name of seven towns on it. "The king will be in each of these towns for one day starting with the one at the top of the list today, then going on down the list."

"How will I recognize him?"

"Have you never seen his image on the royal coin?"

"Yes, but they are all different."

"But they are all true. Use them to help you recognize him."

Stan mounted a fast horse and rode to the first town on the list, called Gatehouse Village.  He spent the day walking about looking into the faces of the people hoping he would recognize the king.  After a while he began to ask if anyone new was recently seen in town.  It became a a discouraging day visiting all the shops and work houses and market place.  At the end of the day Stan thought that the king must have gone to the next town on the list.  Foot sore from waking the town he brought the horse to the stable.  After being in the bright sun the stable was dark and hard for his eyes to adjust. In the dimness the stable hand and horse master were but shadows.  "How much to stable and fodder the horse for the night?" Stan asked the shadowy figures.
The stable hand were shadows

"Two coppers or five iron coins." Stan put the coins in the grubby dirty had of the stable hand.

"May I sleep here tonight? I will need to leave early in the morning." Stan asked.

"Yes you may" said the stable master.  Stan spent the night on a cot next to the horse, listening to the snores of the stable helper who also slept in the stable.

The next morning Stan rode out early to the town of Smithy Waters.  It was a busy mill town where the water wheels on the river turned the gears of the mills.  Stan asked around all day if anyone new was in town and again had no success.  He walked about looking into the faces of everyone to see if any looked noble or had a bearing like a king.  At the end of the day he followed the road to the end of the town and stopped at the ferry house so he could take the ferry across the river to the next town on the list.

"I need to cross the river." Stan said to the ferry boat captain.

The Pole man wore a hat
"We will not be taking any more over tonight, but you can stay until the morning and go in the first boat.  My pole-man will show you where to sleep."   The pole man was wearing a hat down over his face since the sun on the river was bright.  He turned and waived for Stan to follow him to the boat house where the barges were tethered for the night.  Stan and the horse spend the knight listening to the pole man snore.

The next day Stan crossed the river and came to Plow Break Commons, the farming lands the town where the king was suppose to be that day. Stan again looked around asking for news of any newcomers to town.  He looked intently into the faces of everyone he saw.  After the day he was discouraged.  His frustration was made worse when the horse threw a shoe.  Slowly Stan walked the horse to the blacksmith. "My horse threw a shoe, how much."

Soot covered the helper
"Two coppers for the shoe and one tin for the forge." Stan paid and watched as the helper covered with coal and soot stoked the fire and the blacksmith hammered the shoe to shape on the forge. Stan asked,

"Where in town can I stay tonight?"

"Plow Break Commons has no inn, but you are welcome to sleep next to the forge." So Stan spent the night sleeping on the ground next to the forge listening to the helper snore on the other side.

Stan rode to the next town on the list, it was Bakerville, and true to its name it was full of the good smells of baked goods.  Again he spent the day asking if any new person had come to town, he looked in the faces of the people to see if any looked like a king. At the end of the day he entered one of the bakeries. The cook was a fat man who asked him what he would like. Stan needed some provisions for the rest of the week and asked for hearty bread.

"Oh, we have only the fine breads here but the hearty tack is around the back.  My assistant cook will show you were it is."

Bakers Helper, White From Flower
Stan paid and the helper who was white with flower from the crown of his white hair to the rough shoes took him around the back to select the hearty tack bread that could sustain a traveler.

"Where might I sleep tonight?"

"The Baker has rooms above the shop." The assistant replied over his shoulder as he reached up for the loaves of bread. Stan spent the night in one of the rooms the size of a closet. He lay awake worrying that he will never find the king and get the dispatches delivered; failure could be seen as treason. Through the thin walls he could hear the helper snoring.

The next town was Copper Hills. A mining town. Stan wandered around the town asking if anyone new has been there that day.  He looked in the windows of cooper smiths shops and went to the workhouses of the miners.  He watched as tired miners came out of the dark mines their faces covered with sweat and grime.  As the day came to another end he found the miners bunk house and asked if there were any new miners that started that day. "Were does a person spend the night in Cooper Hills?" He asked a grimy faced miner.

"You can sleep in the bunk house with all of us." Stan went into the dark bunk house, some miners were already sleeping.  Only one bunk was free, a bottom bunk, above was a dirty miner reading a book by candle.

"Is anyone using the bunk down here?" Stan asked.
I was not always a miner

"No, you are welcome to it."  The man said from behind the pages of his book.

"It is rare to find a miner who can read."  Stain said as he laid down.

"I was not always a miner."  The old man said.  I should warn you, I snore."

"Oh I have been getting used to that." Stan spent the night in the bunk house listening to the snores of the miner sleeping in the bunk above his. Stan worried that he would let the king down by not delivering the dispatches.

The next town was called Wheat Fields.  Hopelessly Stan rode the horse into the town. In front of him was a caravan of Gypsies in their colorful wagons.  Stan asked all over the town if there was a stranger in the town.  "No one new around here except those Gypsies."  The Gypsies were not liked or trusted by anyone.  "Maybe who you are looking for is riding with them?"

"No." Stan replied. "The one I am looking for is a nobleman of high family, he would never ride with the Gypsies."

After spending the day looking for the king Stan sought a place to sleep the night.  There was only one place for a traveler in Wheat Fields and it was in the village square, but the square was taken over by the Gypsies.  Reluctantly Stan waked to their camp.

"I am a traveler and will need to sleep in the square too." The told the head Gypsy.

The The Gypsy had a patch
"We want no trouble, pick out the place you would like.  This one will give you any help you need."  The head gypsy said as he waved to one of the gypsies who comes over to help. "Help this brother of the road."

The Gypsy who came had a black scarf over his head tied tightly at the back and a patch over on eye, his beard has not been shaved in a week.

"No thank you I need no help." Said Stan and waived away the old Gypsy. Stan chose to tie the horse to the shady tree and slept under the cool of its branches.  He could hear the snores of the Gypsy.  Laying there he wondered if he end up in prison or worse for not delivering the dispatches would he never again see the beautiful Lady Matilda.

The next morning Stan said to himself. "I must find the king today."  The week was almost up and he had not delivered a single dispatch.  He had hoped to deliver many by now.  The last town was the army town called Kings Fort.  Stan rode up to the the high stone walls and stopped at the post gatehouse.

"Has any strangers come through here today?" He asked the guard.

They have Latrine Duty
"No," the guard replied as he checked the book visitors signed. Stan sat on his horse and looked at the faces of those came through the gate.  After a while some solders pushing a cart of barrels came out of the town and disappeared up over a hill.  They came back with an empty cart. Many times as Stan sat at the gate the same two solders pushed the hand cart out.  He could smell the foul putrid stink of latrine water.

"What are those two doing?" Stan asked the guard.

"They have latrine duty.  They are emptying the latrine soil into the cesspool outside the city.  The fort does not have sewers."  Stan had to step aside each time as they trudged past.  They were covered with filth and smelled of waste.

"Where can I spend the night?" Stan asked the Guard.

"You can try at the inn.  It is next to the barracks."  Stan lay in a decent bed for the first time in a week.  He felt awful, he had let the king down and the courier service down and he would never have the ten coin bride price for the ambassador.  He would return to the Dispatch office and face the consequences, he was sure to be hung for treason, he would stand at the gallows and look for Lady Matilda's face it will give him courage.

The next day Stan slowly rode back to the city.  He was discouraged since he failed to find the king all week. "Here are the dispatches.  I didn't find the king- he was visiting. May I have an exception and be courier for the king another week?"

"No exception," Said the director of courier services.

"Another will deliver the documents to the king. Your assignment this week is the tax office. Here is a courier bag with reports, audits and fees."

"Just great." thought Stan as he picked up the courier bag. "There is no one stinger than the tax office. I'll be lucky to have two coppers by the end of the week." And he turned to go.

"Sir." Stan said to the minister of courier services. "I am sorry to let the service down."

"Don't worry about it. The king is forgiving of mistakes when the intention is sincere."  The Director of Courier services opened the dispatch pouch to inspect the documents. "Wait, Your documents have been delivered and signed. See, here is his Majesty's signature and the seal from his signet ring. You did deliver and never knew. Job well done Stan."

Stan was confused. How did the documents get the King's signature since the bag never left his side- indeed he used it as a pillow?

The tax office shared the building with the mint where coins were made.  It was a crowded place that day because the new coins were being displayed.  In the lobby of the office was a series of pictures of the new coins but each was covered with a linen cloth.  Stan lingered for a moment to see some of the ceremony.  The first picture celebrated the end of the war.  Lady Victory would be on one side of all the coins she was standing proud holding the sword low with its blade behind her, in her other hand held high was the olive branch of peace.  Stan felt proud of his country and a just victory.  On the other side of all coins were images of the king.  Ice gripped Stan's heart when he saw clothe lifted off the second it was the king as a stable hand.  The clothe was lifted off of the third and it was a pole-man on a ferry boat.  The next showed the king as a blacksmith's helper at a forge,  then an assistant baker, a copper miner, a one eyed Gypsy,  and a solder on latrine duty.

Stan did not see the last one because the clerk came to the window.  It was a window with bars and the glass was foggy with cigar smoke. The window slid up and the old man behind was wearing the strangest glasses ever, they had three row of lenses one pair flipped up and one pair flipped down. "May I help you?"

"Dispatches." Was all Stan could say.

"What's wrong young man?" asked the old man as he took the dispatches.  Stan explained that he had spent the week trying to find the king and each time he failed to recognize him.  He explained he was hopeful for a generous gratuity, but also he was angry with himself for failing the king and the people.  He was ashamed of his performance and how he reflected badly on the courier service.

"I am sorry you did not recognize the king these eight times."  The clerk said.  "Wait, and I will give you something for your trouble." He flipped the top lenses down over the middle ones and looked over the papers in the dispatch case.  Slowly the old man put a copper coin on the counter. "Have a good day Stan." and the old man lowered the window.

Stan was about to turn when the window opened again. The old man was scribbling on a parchment.

"Take this dispatch pouch to the ambassador Westvailla, maybe he will have a gratuity that will help make up for your last week." Stan picked it up the courier bag he never held such a heavy dispatch.

Stan rushed out the door hopeful that he might see the lady Matilda since her father was the ambassador of Westvailla.  The ambassador and his staff greeted him coldly since they did not have any obligation to the tax office.

"What? Is this some mischief? Taxes! The king has just won a war and does he want to bully us now?"  All the aids crowded around the ambassador and looked over his shoulder as he read the dispatch. They all looked up at Stan, then the letter, then back at Stan then inside the dispatch case.

"Gentlemen." The ambassador said to his aids. "You are dismissed." Stan took that as his instructions to depart and turned to go.

"No. Not you Stan. Why did you not tell me and Lady Matilda that you had friends in such high places? The king himself! Well my goodness. We certainly accept your service as the new royal liaison to the Westvailla Embassy."

Stan was completely confused. The ambassador held out his hand for Stan who shook it. "Well now about the gold coins. Ten will do. I never heard of anyone who was so close to the king that the king paid the bride price for him. You must be an exceptional man indeed."

Stan's eyes bulged out as the ambassador  reached into the courier pouch to remove ten golden coins and put them on the table.

"Take the rest as the letter said it is his Majesty's gift for your service to him and your companionship on his recent travels."

The ambassador placed the bag in Stan's hand and looking into stan saw twenty five gold coins. Each one had the eighth image of the king as a government tax clerk wearing three pair of glasses.

***

One of the signs of a mature Christian is that he knows Jesus, not just casually but he knows Jesus voice from afar, he recognizes the face of Jesus in the dimmest light and he perceives the hand of Jesus in the workings of the world around him. To an immature Christian Jesus is cute or a charm or just the founding martyr of a world religion. We must make knowing Jesus our highest priority.

(C)Adron Dozat

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