Summary: It isn't size, or status, or wealth, or popularity that measures the worth of the church: it is faithfulness.

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We began the week with the story of the Chicago nightclub fire in which 21 people were killed as they rushed to the exit. The club had already been cited for overcrowding and other safety violations - like not enough doors and windows. What happened was that a bouncer used

pepper spray to break up a fight, and people panicked, thinking it was a chemical weapons attack, and fled down a narrow stairway. And then as if that weren’t enough, we’re still reeling from last Thursday‘s fire in a Rhode Island nightclub which saw over 96 people killed and more than 50 others injured as they desperately tried to escape a fire started when the band set off

pyrotechnics as part of their act. News reports say that in addition to burn injuries many people

were badly cut from smashing out windows in a frantic attempt to get out of the building. Another

witness said that people trampled on each other as they tried to squeeze through the club's front

door. One minute everybody was dancing and drinking and having a good time, the next minute

they were screaming in terror in a mindless attempt to escape. But even if someone had warned

them, no one would have believed that such a thing would happen. There was a news crew there

that night filming the club as an example of a safe venue, one in which a tragedy like the Chicago

stampede could never have taken place. No one ever really believes that such a disaster might

happen to them - until it does. We’re like that, we humans, aren’t we? taking our lives for granted

until something turns our world upside down. Our eyes skip right over the danger signs; we don’t

even hear the sirens. It can’t be for us... The bell is tolling for someone else.

“ will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as the days of Noah were, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage ... they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.” [Mt 24:37-39]

Just as in the days of Noah, of course, God has generously provided an exit strategy for the present as well. Jesus told his followers all about it. But he was realistic about how many

people would take the time to familiarize themselves with the emergency procedures. And in any

case, just knowing about the emergency exits doesn’t mean you’ll have the time to get there

before the disaster strikes. Most people, though, either don’t believe that anything bad could

possibly happen, and those who do are sure they can figure out on their own how to get to safety.

Never mind the advice of the experts, the instructions from the authorities, or the architect’s


The reason for that is, of course, that staying close to the door Jesus opens doesn’t give you quite as good a view of the entertainment, or quite as comfortable a seat, or quite the same level of service. I mean, when you’re in Jesus’ corner you have to bus your own dishes! So a lot of people will opt to risk their futures in order to maximize the present. Luke tells us that in his

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