A pastor friend of mine told me the following story recently. About ten years ago he was serving as a local pastor in Houston and owned a lake house on Lake Livingston in East Texas. The house was located in a wooded area with only two other dwellings nearby. His neighbor to the left was a vociferous atheist. His neighbor to the right self identified as a lapsed Catholic. My friend was planning to sell the lake house to finance his seminary education. Sitting in his family room in Houston one night, he saw on the news that a tornado had touched down near Lake Livingston. He watched as debris flew and trees fell.
Since it looked an awful lot like the land right around his lake house he set out the next morning, chainsaw stowed in the back of his truck, to go assess the damage and start the cleanup. As he drove through the winding road along the lake. he saw that there were pine trees sticking out the roof of the atheist’s house, like it had been pole axed. The mobile home occupied by the lapsed Catholic had been dissected by a huge pine tree that had fallen through the roof.
He pulled up to his place, got the chain saw and began walking around the property. No fallen trees. No broken windows. No smashed roof. No damage at all except for lots and lots of fallen pine needles. As he stood in front of his house shaking his head, his two neighbor approached him, as a team of two. Arms folded across their chests they came to a stop before him and asked, in unison, “What gives?”He says that having the chain saw at that moment was a good thing.
Here are the things he did not say
- I am a righteous man and God has seen fit to spare me.
- Clearly, United Methodism is more pleasing to God than either atheism or Catholicism.
He didn’t say either of those things in part because he is a humble man and in part because he didn’t want to get beat up.
Instead, in response to “What Gives?” he said,“I can’t explain this. But I have a chain saw and I am happy to help you with cleaning up your damage.”