Summary: While Scripture is clear about our responsibility to those in need, we cannot forget the harvest, and we cannot forget that "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."
July 25, 2010
Many of you know that before I was on staff as church administrator and an elder here at TCF, I had a public relations business for about 15 years. One of the things I did for my p.r. clients was go to trade shows or conventions. This is where companies that made and sold the programming that’s on your satellite or cable TV, or the hardware or software that makes it possible to get all those channels in your home, get together with the cable TV system operators who provide your local service.
My job was to try to get the news outlets – trade and consumer press which covered these conventions - to cover my clients business. The vendors would build these very elaborate display booths to show off their products and draw in potential customers.
One of the things they did to enhance the draw of their booths was to get celebrities to come into their booths and make appearances, sign autographs, etc. Most of the time these celebs had something to do with the product, especially when we’d go to the Western Cable Show in Anaheim, close to Hollywood, and the stars of programs on many of the cable channels would show up at these conventions.
Through the years, I saw or met lots of people you’d know, and many more who were minor celebrities you may or may not know. Harry Caray was the announcer for the Chicago Cubs, who were carried on WGN, which was one of my larger clients. Of course, WGN also carried the original Bozo the Clown. He’s the one on the right.
Ted Turner was the founder of TBS, TNT, and CNN. Gary Owens was an announcer on one of the satellite radio channels distributed by one of my clients. Those of you who are old enough might remember him from Laugh In in the 1960s.
I met Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Vanna White, the cast of Star Trek Next Generation, 70s pop music star Todd Rundgren, the founder of Discovery Channel, the founder of ESPN, and many more people during these years.
The other thing I did which was fun was go to some of the booths and collect various and sundry memorabilia – like my basketball collectors cards here, as well as my Discovery Channel Magazine cover – funny story - it’s amazing how many of our kids see this in my office and ask if I really was a World War II flying ace.
I also knew people who worked for other networks, and once, I was visiting with a friend in another booth, and up walks Mr. T. Now, he was a minor celebrity in the 1980s because he starred in a mediocre, but popular, TV action show called The A Team. He was also in the movie Rocky III. You still see him on TV occasionally today.
Mr T arrived to do an appearance in the booth we were standing in, and he thought I was waiting to meet him, which I wasn’t. So, he looks at me and says, “Come on now, don’t be shy. Come get your picture taken with Mr T.” So I did.
Here’s the reason for this rather long-winded opening illustration. Mr T was famous for one particular phrase. Anybody remember?
“I pity the fool…”
And at last, we get to the point of our illustration here. I pity the fool.
1 Corinthians 15:19 (NIV) If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
The context of this passage is a defense of the resurrection, where Paul is telling the believers in Corinth that if there is no resurrection, there’s no hope of eternal life. And if our only hope in Christ has to do with what we have in this life, we are to be pitied. I pity the fool.
There’s a rather disturbing, and ultimately sad trend in some segments of the church today that relates to this idea. Let me read a few quotes that highlight this line of thinking.
…based on the Scriptures, I believe Jesus primarily came not to proclaim a way out of hell for some after death, but rather a way into a better life for all before death. His message was not about going to heaven after history, but about the kingdom of heaven coming to earth in history. Brian McLaren
And then there’s this:
"Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker. This has huge implications for how people present the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can come into our hearts. But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems. God’s desire is to restore all of it....The goal isn’t escaping this world but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work." Rob Bell