(This will become a Saturday Series for me; as I am inspired)
Once upon a time, there was a man named Bennie. Bennie was always talked about by the community as a good man. He went to church every Sunday. He could be seen welcoming guests who came to church. He sang in the choir. Whatever the Nominating Committee asked of him, Bennie always said yes. He volunteered for every project and event. His pastor frequently called him “The Salt Of The Earth” kinda man!
One Sunday morning as he was sitting in the choir, Bennie started noticing the other people. He was so caught up in noticing, his heart wasn’t in the choir’s anthem. Music that had stirred his heart was just another habit. He was so caught up in noticing others, that he wasn’t listening to his pastor’s message. He could not help but notice that Fred from work was there. He knew Fred was living with his girlfriend with the proper marriage certificate. After the service was over he congratulated his fellow choir members for another great anthem, though he didn’t remember the name of the song.
Then came the following Sunday and Fred was noticing again. He saw Carol coming into the sanctuary. He thought to himself, “That’s not appropriate clothing for church! She’s showing way too much flesh.” Jim and Betty came in, “Late again!” he muttered to himself. When the offering plate was being passed along he noticed The Widow Jones put in a five-dollar bill. He knew her late husband left her well-off. He thought about that fancy house where she lived. “She could do a whole lot better than a fiver”, he said to himself.
Sunday became Fred’s day of noticing other people. When Henry and Liz came in holding hands as they always did, he remembered, “Wasn’t that Henry’s truck over at Jessica’s house the other night? I believe it was! I KNOW it was! Liz was out of town with her job. And Henry is looking so, so–what’s the term? Smug and self-righteous, that’s the term!” After complimenting his Pastor for another great message, which he never heard because he was noticing people, Fred went home.
That afternoon Fred did a lot, I mean a lot of thinking. He thought to himself, “You know, I’m a whole lot better than all those hypocrites! And after all these years of faithful attendance, I do know a lot about Jesus and the Bible. In fact, I know enough, more than enough, that I don’t need to go to church anymore. Besides, the people are so distracting!”
The very next Sunday, Fred remembered what he thought about the previous Sunday, so he decided to stay home. But something didn’t seem right to him. So he went to his computer and found a different church’s live stream. The musical production was awesome and the preacher was engaging. After watching it, he felt a little better. The next Sunday Fred decided to try attending in person at HIS church. But the distractions persisted and consumed his noticing.
Fred’s attendance became more and more sporadic. He quit the choir and resigned from all the positions that blessed Nominating Committee had put him on. Now, on the Sundays he was attending in person, he watched a variety of churches streaming services. Then he noticed that he didn’t have to watch them live–for his convenience those churches saved those services to watch later.
Since Fred didn’t have to busy himself on Sundays watching worship services, and being his day off, he found other things to occupy his time. He could always watch that streaming service later. Finally, he stopped watching them altogether. And Fred was feeling so much better without being surrounded by all those pitiful church people, or so he thought.
But life changed, as it always does. His Dad died and not a single person from church was there offering love and care. His new friends were there, but their advice was shallow and didn’t help. Then Fred had a crisis at work–he was let go. Again, no one from any church came to his side. Fred was all alone. It made him a little sad–but when he thought about all those hypocrites, what was the name of the church he used to attend? Nevermind! He didn’t need them! He was very content living without those annoying connections with other people.
Fred adjusted very well to his life. He became very self-reliant and self-sufficient. All that talk he had heard about the importance of the Body of Christ in one’s life seemed so foolish to him. How in the world could he be so deceived. He was a bit mad at himself for believing all that baloney! And so Fred lived in isolation for the remainder of his earthly life.
One day death was approaching Fred. He knew it would. In his mind, he reviewed all that huge amount of information he knew from the Bible. He remembered the day he was baptized and joined that church, the name he couldn’t remember–but he was a member there. One night Fred closed his eyes as death came to him. When he opened his eyes again, he expected to see pearly gates, walls of jasper, streets of gold, and his very own mansion that would put Widow Jones’ mansion to shame.
Instead, Fred was in this large room by himself. Not another soul in sight! He was a bit confused because none of this matched what he learned those years he went to church. He thought to himself, “Maybe this is just a waiting room–a holding area–while they do the finishing touches on my mansion. And where are all the people who should already be here?” Not another soul could be seen. He wondered how long he had been in that lonely room. But then he remembered that in eternity there was no such thing as time. But he still wondered, “Where is heaven? Is this heaven?”
Panic set in and Fred screamed out, “What’s going on? What’s this place? It doesn’t look like anything I learned from the Bible! Where all you, God?” A bright light shined, it hurt his eyes, and he heard a voice, the voice of God. “What’s wrong, Fred?” Fred replied, “This doesn’t look like heaven!” God replied, “It’s not.” Fred started to tremble, thinking he was in hell. But he knew this wasn’t like the place he learned about. This time Fred shouted, “This doesn’t look like hell, either!”
It sounded to Fred like God let out a little chuckle. Then God replied, “It’s no.” Frustrated Fred said, “Just then what is this place?” There was silence, and Fred swore he just heard God sigh–it was a deep and sad sigh. “This place”, God replied, “is the place you longed for, sought hard for, and the place on earth you became contented. Fred, this is what you wanted while on earth–so now you have an eternity of it. Being alone.” The end.
The Moral Of The Story
No, this is NOT a lesson on what heaven and hell are about. It’s a lesson about what we desire when it comes to the Community of Faith. There are all kinds of good excuses to avoid being with others in the Body of Christ. Even with her faults and flaws, truth is we need the Body of Christ–the Fellowship Of The Broken Who Need To Be Whole. And the bottom line of The Moral is this: Whatever you desire the most–you will get. So, ask yourself–will it satisfy you for eternity?