It is a "hoot" to be a preacher today. It reminds me of the days when I was in elementary school and the teacher would ask me a question to which I actually knew the answer. It was such a rare occurrence back then, that my head would almost explode with excitement waiting for her to finish the question so I could give her the answer.
I've since discovered that there are two kinds of 4th graders: the ones who always know the answers, and the boys. I was, of course, one of the latter. And, I knew very well that the outcome of my whole elementary education mostly depended on "stayin' lucky." So, when I was, and I caught a question I could answer, I was ecstatic.
And, ecstatic is the way I feel these days. I feel so blessed to actually know the Answer to the desperate human questions. Questions like, "How can I recover from my broken life?" "Is death all there is?" or "What does God want for me and from me?" I think my head really is going to explode.
But, I do have one problem. I have noticed lately that the question "askers" are somewhat diminishing. And, the forecast is for that trend to continue.
Still, I have been blessed across the years of my ministry to be able to enjoy interest and inquisition in the eyes of my congregation when I have preached. It has been very gratifying to see in their faces that what I was saying had value to them. But, recently, in the last few years, I have, indeed, noticed a troubling disinterest, especially among some of the older teens and the younger adults, which are, in my mind, a pretty important social subset.
I'm not speaking here of a momentary wavering of attention. It is more like they live in one world, and I live in another; and, the issues of my world simply don't matter in theirs. So, they sort of sit there in polite disinterest. They simply don't seem to really have any questions that I can answer.
OK. I get that. I can become gracefully irrelevant - YEAH RIGHT.
And maybe your thinking, "Well Preacher, you're just slipping." That is absolutely true. But, that does not entirely cover it. I think there is another reason why they think the information that I am bursting to give them (I am squirming in my seat, even as we speak) is mostly unimportant. It is because they don't have a complete picture of their existence.
So, I'm going to paint that picture one more time. Now, I am very aware that you probably don't belong to that disinterested group; but, I have to tell somebody (it's that head exploding thing). And, I'm afraid your the only ones available at the moment. So...
A long time ago God created all of this. Then He patiently allowed all human history to play out, even to the present day, giving opportunity to countless millions to taste life. He has intervened and interacted across that history in the most loving way, especially through the Savior, clearly demonstrating His interest in the well being of humanity.
But after this present opportunity for His love to work, in the near future, according to His plan and timetable, the Creator is going to convene a special hearing for humanity. It will be unlike anything the world has ever seen. This hearing will be held at the crossroads of reality where the physical world and the spiritual world intersect.
At this hearing, God will call for all of humanity to stand before Him, all who have ever lived. Then, He will conduct an interview with each one of us as to how we have responded to Him. But, when He comes to the disinterested crowd, He will be the only one talking. I suspect it will go something like this...
"I created everything; and I created you. I wanted to know you, to really know you. I wanted to experience the day to day ups and downs with you that create meaningful relationship.
"To facilitate that adventure, I gave you a Savior in my Son to heal the rift between us that occurred in Adam. He did that. When my Son died, I became willing to forgive your stubborn independence and your self centered approach to life. Beyond that, it was my intention to implant His living Spirit within you so that your mind, your character, your conscience, and thus, your whole life might be entirely renewed.
In this way, I intended to cement our relationship into one of love and harmony for your enduring good. In your Savior, through His Cross and His Resurrection, I laid endless life and blessing at your feet. And that opportunity was there, awaiting a response from you, every day of your entire lifetime.
"And, across the years of your life, I only ever asked one thing of you in response. I only asked humility, first in the form of sorrow for your waywardness, and then as a renewed sensitivity to my wishes. But that response never came.
"Nothing that I ever did seemed important to you. It wasn't important that I gave you life. It wasn't important how I felt about the way you lived your life. The warnings that I gave you within didn't matter. The warnings that I gave you through your life circumstance didn't matter. The love that spoke softly to you of forgiveness in your Savior, the love that offered you a new and better way forward simply had no value to you. You ignored it all.
"So, for a few years of doing as you pleased and chasing after empty, temporary things, you have sold an eternity of happiness. That is the path you chose, and now that is the path that you will finish.
"So, I hereby pronounce you forever condemned to an eternity of punishment in the hell that I created for Satan and the angels who followed him. I command that the fire of that place never be quenched; and, that you shall never be granted a reprieve, nor even a hearing for reprieve, from its natural torment - forever.
Because the Cross of your Savior had no value to you, neither shall it have value to Me now to save you from everlasting punishment. Because you never tasted the power of His Resurrection, neither shall you now taste the power of His deliverance from this judgment. Because you thought everything in life more important than responding to your Savior, now you shall have those things in full measure, for they fuel the flames of your eternity. Be gone, and be forever forgotten in the agony of the wrong choices of your lifetime..."
Now see, I think if that disinterested crowd, polite or otherwise, could see that picture, the real, the whole picture of their reality, they would not be so disinterested anymore. I'm pretty certain that if they ever do "get it" when it comes to the "big picture," then that beautiful light of questioning interest will also come on in their eyes.
Hopefully, all of them will come to see the import of their larger reality before it's too late. And I'm reasonably certain, for at least for some of them, this will happen. God's "chasing" love will see to that.
And then guess what! I get to give them the Answer that I know! I am ec-static at that possibility! I just hope I still have my head when the time comes.