The pastor was new and wanted to teach his congregation about the radical love of God. And so he told them a story;
“Once upon a time there was a town built in a valley. On the one side of the valley, high above the town, there was an amphitheatre. Carved out of the valley wall it had wonderful acoustics and many great concerts and shows were performed there. On the other side of the valley, high above the town, there was the town’s sports stadium. Built on a natural shelf the stands were hewn from the cliff, and not only was there great parking but its location kept any team rivalry away from the town. High above the valley a dam fed the town with both electricity and fresh clean water. Good school, low crime, even a Walmart, it was a good place to live.
One day the town preacher heard from God. He was to plan a revival. It was to be held in the stadium, on the same day Lady Gaga was scheduled to hold a concert in the amphitheatre.
The townspeople were split. There were those who hadn’t been to a revival in years and weren’t going to miss this one. Then there were those who wouldn’t miss a lady Gaga concert for the world – or wanted to go with their kids, or even grand kids, to make sure they were safe. For months there was planning and discussion.
The day came and half the town made their way up the hill to the stadium where the sound of hymns rolled down the valley. The other half made their way to the Lady Gaga concert where the thump of the bass was so deep it could be heard in the next town.
Half way through the evening the unimaginable happened. The dam burst.
Water washed through the town and destroyed everything. Houses, cars, the Walmart, all swept away. But by a miracle everyone was safe, either on one side of the valley or the other, high above the waters.
Half the town said it was lucky that Lady Gaga had been in town that day, The other half praised God for the revival. All were saved”.
His congregation looked at him dumbly and then went home shaking their heads.
Throughout the week he had no end of phone calls. Half the board resigned. People withdrew their support. The bank called him to let him know that tithes had been cancelled.
The preacher sighed. The next week he addressed what was left of his congregation……
“Last week I told you a story. Most of you guessed that the ending was wrong. I bet it didn’t take you long to work it out. You’re so clever! Of course everyone at the revival was saved. Whereas the amphitheatre, being carved out of the hillside was destroyed in the same landslide that created the natural flood barrier that saved the west side of town. I’m afraid that only those at the revival made it, and the only buildings to survive were the Walmart and the church. The lesson is that we must not underestimate the power and will of God”
His congregation stood and cheered. His board came back, support returned, tithing renewed.
He’d had them going for a while! But seriously, what kind of God would save everyone?
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:47-50.