John was just getting ready for bed when the news channel reported that in Israel the government had thrown a security curtain around the Wailing Wall and the orthodox Jews were rioting at being denied access to pray. Not thinking much of it he went to bed only to be awakened a short while latter by a phone call from the General. He was amazed as he listened to his instructions. The General had never been known to call any one this late. Much less a lowly lieutenant. But at the Corp. building the next morning Major Crocker from District Head Quarters arrived with his orders to leave for Israel. He left his wife Brenda in charge of the Corps kissed her goodbye saying he didn't know how long it would be until he saw her again.
Landing in Washington he was quickly escorted to a waiting room where he meet other clergy who were as confused as he was. The only common thread that they could find among themselves was all of them could read both ancient Greek and Hebrew. They were kept cloistered until they boarded an El Ail airplane. Even there the crew did it's best to keep them separated from the other passengers.
At the airport in Israel they were not allowed to leave with the other passengers but kept on board while the plane taxied to a hanger. In the hanger they disembarked directly into army trucks and transported to a base on the outskirts of Jerusalem. After spending a nervous night they were even more puzzled at breakfast when they were greeted by bible scholars from the rest of the world. After entering the meeting hall they were all cautioned as to the very delicate nature of the subject scroll they had been called or assigned here to study. A person took the microphone and told of standing before the Wailing Wall and noticing an elderly rabbi scan the wall until he stopped in front of a particular stone. After the rabbi left he went over and examined it carefully and found written on it in ancient Hebrew 'The Lord's Scroll'. He reached up to touch it and it fell out of the wall into his hands. Behind it was a very old parchment scroll. It was at the point that the solders arrested him for trying to steal a piece of the wall. Luckily the officer at his urging in charge removed the scroll and brought it with them. At the station he was able to convince the judge that he was just a very curious archaeologist. The judge confiscated the scroll for safekeeping but not before he was able to read the opening line. After returning to the university he called various friends in government and was soon able to convince them to call this group together.
With the preliminaries out of the way a Mr. Radiain took the microphone and asked that each person go to their room. Once there they would be given a copy of the scroll, which they would have to sign for, each was numbered and had to be returned. They were free to mark it up but not destroy it. If they wanted it removed just ask a guard who would be in the hall and someone would come and get it. He also asked that no discussion take place until everyone returned to the hall
John found this very intriguing. Once in his room all he could do was pace until his copy arrived. After he finished reading he wished he had never became involved. This was a document that no matter what was decided here if it became public knowledge organized religion would have problems not encountered before. As he read the scroll the writer claimed to be Jesus Christ he then gave a quick summary of events that lead up to the writing of the scroll. Which if it was to be believed was written while was visiting after the resurrection. It stated when it would be found. A folder delivered with the scroll copy stated that both the parchment and ink on the original were consistent with the time frame claimed in it. The rabbi who was observed at the wall was as close to a totally honest man as could be found in today's world. The scroll when on to say that in no way was this a warning of his Second Coming. He just felt that after 2000 years had passed the worlds religions needed a shaking up for they had forgotten the primary message that he had set forth. That being to love one another.
John sat back stunned there was no inconsistencies in the reading and as he mentally reconciled it with the Bible none to be found there. He could hear various voices calling for the guards to, as one voice put it, " Remove this blasphemous travesty you Jews are trying to con us with." He reread it then put it out of his mind as he prayed for guidance.
A knock at the door summoned him to the evening meeting. Mr. Radiain was at the podium. His first comments concerned the missing theologians after which he solicited comments from the floor as to the best way to develop a consensus concerning the validity of the scroll. The meeting closed after 3 hours of every conceivable parliamentary style being proposed. Radiain's closing comments were a good political dance ending with a statement that a flyer tomorrow morning would detail the board's choice.
John spent a restless night unable to call anyone and too keyed up to sleep. He found comfort only in prayer. When breakfast time came he still hadn't slept but he was rested. Opening his door he picked up the promised flyer and read it while eating. They had gone the committee route. He along with several catholic priests and a couple of evangelic ministers were appointed as a committee to investigate the impact on present day theology.
By the afternoon meeting John realized one of the ministers had aligned himself with the priests and the final verdict would be for an adverse impact. All he could do was work for as mildly worded paper as possible. Even at that he failed the final committee paper called for the labeling of the scroll as a hoax and it's burial in the secret stacks of the government library.
When the full body met the other committee reports paralleled his. There were numerous calls for the destruction of all copies. The last committee to report was his and the call for burial met with grudging approval as the best way. When one of the priests asked for a copy to place in the Vatican files John saw his chance and asked for a copy also. Several other religions asked for a copy and together they formed a large enough coalition to get their way.
Leaving the El Al flight in Washington John carried his copy in a hard plastic tube. Despite various attempts by the stewardess John had kept it in his hands from the moment he received it just prior to boarding. As he entered the terminal a Mr. Barstis introduced himself and stated he had been assigned by the State Department to assist him through customs. He then accompanied John to the baggage area. After John had picked up his luggage they proceeded to customs where Barstis flashed a card as he escorted John through without stopping. Then they checked the baggage through to Maine. Mr. Barstis stayed with him until he boarded the plane then he gave John his card and told him to call if he needed any help latter on. Once back home John translated it into English. As he did the suppression of it nagged at his conscience.
A week after he returned Brenda confronted him. She wanted to know what had gone on that was causing him to toss, turn and mutter in his sleep. John knew he couldn't lie to her so he told her everything that had gone on then gave her the translated scroll to read. When he did he realized he should have done it right off. He had received his highest marks in training school when he laid out both sides of a theological question for her then built his argument to support her choice.
Brenda sat back after reading unable to believe it was never to be read or preached about. She realized John would do as promised and deliver all copies of the scroll and translations to the General. Her first concern became how she could keep a copy of each, her second how to get it out to the people. All without causing John to break his vows. The first was easily accomplished. As John made his hospital rounds Tuesday she copied away. The second was still bothering her when they flew to England to deliver the package. Being at the sight where their faith was founded as well as its world headquarters was special. When the time came for his meeting with the General he was told Brenda was expected to accompany him.
They arrived together in full dress uniforms. John was exceptionally nervous and the General did her best to put them at ease with small talk before getting into the meat of the meeting. When she did however John was surprised Brenda was not invited to leave. The General noticed the look on his face and made the comment that unless her intuitions had failed Brenda all ready knew all about what she and John had to discuss. Besides her point of view might prove useful. With that John started his presentation covering what went on at the meeting. As he finished with what had been decided at the meeting she asked him for his translation. Reading through it she said nothing. Then after she put it down she rose and told them to stay in London a few more days. She wanted to talk some more with them but time didn't permit it today.
London was a second honeymoon for them. They now had time to sightsee. And they made the most of it. They had been around a week when the General called them back to complete the meeting. What John was unaware of was the General had accidentally meet Brenda in the ladies room and spent the time talking about the scroll and what John had agreed to. Entering John was surprised to see other high ranking members of the Army awaiting them. The General started things off by stating they had agreed in advance to abide by the decision of the group John had been a member of. So there was no point in John feeling any blame for the circumstances surrounding the scroll now. Also they high council had reviewed his translation and now wanted to feel how he viewed it's impact on their teachings. John's reply was that if one disregarded the initial opening statements of the scroll it supported their teachings very well. But he was unsure of how to integrate the beginnings of the scroll with his beliefs. The General then asked if he believed it was the word of Christ written by his own hand as it claimed. John was aware that any further rise in rank depended on his answers. Looking at Brenda he saw her nod encouragement as he took a deep breath and stated that nothing in the scroll was in contradictions with the Bible and he could not deny that Christ had written it. If it was indeed his it would be the only writings directly written by him. The General took control of the meeting stating that the council did feel it was the words of Christ and now the problem was how to incorporate the teachings without using the scroll openly. Various ideas were proposed. The General refused most of them out of hand. She settled on an announcement to all officers and soldiers to reemphasis St. Matthew chapter 22 verses 36 through 40 in their life and teachings. Everyone in the room knew it was weak compared to the impact the scroll would have but they were bound by the agreement. Flying back to Maine with John, Brenda was searching for a way to relieve the frustration she felt. The General had not taken the supreme step of faith she had hoped for and she was wise enough to realize if she released John's translation it would be treated as a hoax. Unknown to anyone a clerk in Jerusalem made a cataloging error, filing the scroll in the stacks open to research scholars. As such it was microfilmed and copies were sent to various libraries around the world. In Washington a researcher called up the new listing, read it, copied it and gave it to a friend who hobby was the Dead Sea Scrolls. George Woolford couldn't figure out why the Israel government didn't make the usual press announcement about finding a new scroll. After reading it he was even more puzzled. George entered his translation in the computer network linking him with others interested in the scrolls. Their on line discussions caught the attention of a research assistant to Ron Cabbet the talk show host. Brenda was conducting the Thursday night Bible study when one of the ladies asked what she thought of the guy they had on the Cabbet show yesterday. When Brenda expressed ignorance of the discussion. The lady told her of a guy who claimed to find a new Dead Sea Scroll written by Christ. Brenda carefully avoided any comment leading the study through the rest of the lesson in a daze. The following morning she called the local station and got the name of the person involved. Then wrote George a letter asking him for documentation on his find. She didn't tell John about it fearing a let down if it was a quack. When his packet arrived in the mail its contents were a shock to even her. There was a translation of the scroll that matched John's almost word for word. And a very kind letter from George asking a question that was haunting. George wrote that one of his friends had estimated the time of filing the document. After which another had researched the flights to Israel and found a special flight of all of religious people that had a Salvation Army officer on board with the same last name as hers. It ended with a request for help if she knew anything about the scroll. Brenda showed John the packet and after he read it they prayed for guidance.
The next day found them calling the General asking for guidance. All they got was orders to follow what had been decided. John shrugged his shoulders and told Brenda not to write back. Brenda prayed for guidance again then sat down and wrote to George telling him the basics of what had happened in Israel and the orders she was under. She asked him to try some of the other people on the flight and see if they would confirm the information. If he could get someone else to break the oath. They might get permission allowing them to break theirs.
A month had passed and Brenda let the scroll slip to the back of her mind. When a call from George brought it all back. He had been unable to find anyone who would talk and now the combined governments were hounding him to refute his statements. When he explained what he wanted she told him she would call back then told John what she had done. She asked him to join her in Washington and he refused. Brenda call George back, then packed and headed for the airport taking her step of faith. John watched her leave then tried to go about his business. He arrived too late to catch her flight but caught the next one.
In Washington George met Brenda at the airport and took her to her hotel to freshen up then headed to the press conference. There he retold his story and Brenda told hers. When the reporters asked why her husband wasn't there she stated he was bound by an oath. When they were finishing the conference John entered and walked up beside Brenda. One of the reporters asked him about what his wife had said. John looked skyward then confirmed what she had said and provided full details of the conference.