When automobiles were first introduced to the marketplace in the early part of the twentieth century, like everything else that was new, these “horseless carriages” raised a few Brethren eyebrows—particularly among the church leadership. Automobiles were looked upon as being worldly, but eventually they gained acceptance, even among church leaders.
Bitzer Johns was a straight laced Brethren preacher ministering in the Springville (now Mohler) Congregation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Brother Johns looked askance at automobiles at first and even preached against them, but eventually got one himself. However, he felt the Brethren shouldn’t be characterized by speeding, and even said so in a sermon one Sunday morning. “Why, some of our members drive so fast, the CHICKENS can’t even get off the road in time,” he admonished.
The Springville Congregation had a team of “free ministers” during that era, one of whom was John Myer. Brother Myer and his wife Earla and family lived on a farm along the road from Shirk’s Crossroad to Stevens in northern Lancaster County. The day after the “driving-too-fast” admonition was given from the pulpit, unbeknownst to John and Earla Myer, Brother Johns happened to be driving past the Myer farm. When Bitzer knocked on John and Earla’s door, he handed Earla a dead chicken—still limp and warm. His only comment was, “The chickens are terribly SLOW today,” and then turned and left.
All of us, at times, have had to eat our words! The Bible has a lot to say about the tongue and our sometimes rash words. Solomon wisely instructs us, “Do not be quick with your mouth [and] do not be hasty in your heart…” (Ecclesiastes 5:2a./NIV). “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned,” said Jesus (Matthew 12:37/ESV). And the Proverb writer sagaciously admonishes. “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23/ESV). May the story of the limp, dead chicken be a reminder to all of us to weigh our words.. .so we won’t later need to eat them!
–Paul W. Brubaker