One Sunday a pastor told his congregation that the church needed some extra money and asked the people to prayerfully consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns. After the offering plates were passed, the pastor glanced down and noticed that someone had placed a $1,000 bill in offering. He was so excited that he immediately shared his joy with his congregation and said he’d like to personally thank the person who placed the money in the plate. A very quiet, elderly, saintly lady all the way in the back shyly raised her hand. The pastor asked her to come to the front. Slowly, she made her way to the pastor. He told her how wonderful it was that she gave so much and in thanksgiving, asked her to pick out three hymns. Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation, pointed to the three handsomest men in the building and said, “I’ll take him, and him, and him.”
William Barker relates the story of a bishop from the East Coast who many years ago paid a visit to a small, midwestern religious college. He stayed at the home of the college president, who also served as professor of physics and chemistry. After dinner, the bishop declared that the millennium couldn’t be far off, because just about everything about nature had been discovered and all inventions conceived. The young college president politely disagreed and said he felt there would be many more discoveries. When the angered bishop challenged the president to name just one such invention, the president replied he was certain that within fifty years men would be able to fly. “Nonsense!” sputtered the outraged bishop. “Only angels are intended to fly.” The bishop’s name was Wright, and he had two boys at home who would prove to have greater vision than their father. Their names: Orville and Wilbur.
Most of us lived through the year 2000. The year was a mile marker and the millennium held a lot of changes for all of us. We heard about the 2000 computer bug, but it amounted to nothing. Banks didn’t close and money didn’t get misplaced. Utilities were not interrupted. There wasn’t the panic and chaos that was predicted. The ball dropped in Times Square and everyone celebrated a new century.
The new millennium did not bring the “Second Coming” of Jesus? To that I can give you a definite positive. There were many who predicted that Jesus would return in 2,000. Jesus made it very clear that “no one except the Father knows the day or the hour” of Jesus’ return. The scripture teaches that time is already established. Whether it will be in the next millennium or beyond, only God knows. Every nation has not yet heard the word. The Temple is not in place in Jerusalem. Will these things be in place by the end of the new millennium?
I find it interesting that we always want to put a time frame for God. (Ps 90:4) For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. (2 Peter 3:8) But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. When will we learn that God is not human and is not bound by time as we are bound?
The millennium, and the years since with advanced technology have forced our world to be smaller. The new millennium opened with 8 billion people inhabiting the world. The one instruction that God gave us that we have done and done well has been to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” It is a serious problem that the Church must address. Population increases and resources decrease. A population out of control causes other social ills: the polarization of those who have and those who have not. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This causes injustice and breaks down community harmony. The Church becomes hypocritical when it cries that injustice is wrong and yet is demanding a lack of birth control that feeds or causes the injustice. The Church must wake up to the reality that prevention is part of the cure.
We no longer can view ourselves as isolated from the rest of the world. What happens in another country directly affects us. We have in years past been very narrow minded. C. S. Lewis said, “God must like diversity because he made us all so different.”
The “pluralism” of our world will demand greater tolerance in the generations to come. This will be increasingly difficult for a people who are becoming more and more polarized in their thinking and views. For the Christian there will always be the struggle to be in the world but not of the world. What this means is that we will have to accept the fact that we live in a pagan world, that just happens to have a majority of people that call themselves Christian. We are in a time of “political religiosity.” The Moral Majority, now when have you ever known the majority to be moral? Matt 7:13-15 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Christianity is at its best when it is a minority.
Max Lucado tells a story from his days in Brazil. The small house was one room on a dusty street on the outskirts of a village. Gray walls and a dirt floor. An old calendar, crucifix and not much furnishings. Maria’s husband had died when Christina was an infant. Maria was a maid and couldn’t afford much. Now Christina was old enough to work. Christina had eyes on the city and left. There were few ways in the city for Christina to survive. None of them good. One day Maria took a bus to the city. She spent her savings to have pictures made for Christina. She made the rounds to the bars, flop houses and everywhere. A few weeks later Christina descended the hotel stairs. She was tired, her eyes no longer danced with youth but pain. Her dream had become a nightmare. She longed for home, but it was too far away. At the bottom of the stairs her eyes caught a familiar picture. On the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Her eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and took the photo. Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home. Let’s begin again.
This is our purpose in all of the millenniums ahead. Our task. Our heart. Our soul.