A preacher who liked to play golf every Wednesday at a modest public golf course was standing on the elevated tee at the sixth hole of that course. He took a few practice swings, and looked across the river to the immaculate private country club nearby.

“Just once I’d like to play at that gorgeous course,” the preacher said to his foursome.

Another player spoke up: “My company has a reserved tee time at that club for us every Sunday morning, and it’s all paid for, too. But all of a sudden yesterday the boss says we have to travel out of town for a week. It’s a shame to let that tee time go to waste. I could give you a guest pass and you could have it all to yourself. What do you say?”

Of course this was a dream come true for the preacher, but it put him in a terrible predicament. If he accepted the gift, he would have to miss Sunday worship. He thought to himself, “I haven’t missed a Sunday service in 17 years of preaching. A sin to be sure, but I am after all just a man trying to do my best like all the rest.” He succumbed to temptation and accepted the invitation.

On Sunday, the preacher awoke, called his head deacon, and said, “I’m terribly sick today, and will not be able to offer service.”

“Well, we surely hope you are feeling better soon,” said the deacon. “What matters most is that you get well. We shall all pray for you today.”

This made the preacher feel quite guilty, but it was a clear, cool morning, and promised to be a beautiful day. He opened a box from under the bed that had a new, carefully-folded, colorful golf shirt, his cleaned and polished golf shoes, and he put them on instead of his usual, sober Sunday clothes.

Later, on the beautiful practice green, the preacher fit right in but couldn’t help feeling conspicuous. At that exact moment up in Heaven, Saint Peter was looking down. He said to God, “Do you see what is happening down there? I’m very disappointed in George – he has shown such Faith. Surely you are going to do something?”

God replied, “Don’t worry, Pete, I’ve got it all figured out. This game has tested the will power of many of my Saints.”

St. Peter knew it was best not to ask why, to just wait patiently and watch it all to play out. He watched the preacher walk confidently to the first tee, a short par-4. The preacher teed it up, and hit a pretty fair drive, low and straight.

But just then, God waived his hand and created the perfect little wind. The wind carried the ball as if in the hand of God and lifted it down the fairway. The ball took once bounce and landed on the green, kept rolling, swung to the right, barely crept up to the hole, and fell in. It was beautiful.

Up in heaven, St. Pete was very upset. “A hole in one? Are you kidding me? Here is one of our devoted own, committing this sin, on a Sunday no less. Just when I’m certain that you are going to offer up the perfect punishment to befit the sin, you instead go and reward him with a once-in-a-lifetime shot?”

God says, “Yes, but calm down, Pete. Who is he going to tell?”