When The Whole Thing is a Finale

2 Aug

Tonight our family took part in one of those greatest of American traditions: minor league baseball. Our single-A team plays before anywhere from a few hundred to a couple of thousand fans on most nights. But there is one time when the attendance spikes — fireworks night. The game ends and the field goes dark and out behind the right field wall and fireworks fill the sky, their booming blasts filling our ears.

The game tonight was a good one. Our team picked up four runs in the first inning and held on ,with some outstanding relief pitching (12 strikeouts over the last five innings), picking up a 4-3 win. It was an interesting game that was in doubt until the last pitch was delivered. I was really hoping the visitors would not score in the top of the ninth because I had two sweaty, tired children sitting on my lap who were ready for one thing — fireworks.

And there, right in the middle of the fireworks show, I had something of a revelation. This fireworks show was so different from those I remember from years ago. The difference was so stark I realized it immediately. The fireworks shows of my past, even ten or fifteen years ago, were rousing and powerful but they all built toward a grand finale, a few minutes of really intense fireworks which capped off the show and left everyone satisfied. Fireworks in the early part of the show were shot off one at a time, with occasional groupings of two or three fireworks, slowly moving toward the finale. Each firework was to be appreciated one at a time. And back then, one firework booming and spreading out in drops of light across the sky was enough to elicit oohs and aahs from most audiences.

The fireworks show tonight was one big finale, a cacophony of explosions, an irregular splashing of light across the night sky. It seemed like Jackson Pollack had gone into pyrotechnics.

The thought came to me — what a picture this is of our culture. We are addicted to meaningless flashiness. We like it fast and bright and pretty and loud and empty. The idea of building toward a finale is far too boring for our Twitterized culture. Savoring one blast after another is just a waste of time when we can just throw them all up there at once and hear a big boom.

And so it goes in our culture at large. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I understand why people struggle with church. We are telling a story. This story spans eternity. And the God who is at the center of the story is not on our timetable and He does not give in to our demand for what we want when we want it. Instead, He unfolds His working in our life, a piece at a time, over time, transforming our lives from one degree of glory to another. His story is building toward a finale, the kind of finale that will make the world’s greatest fireworks show look like a single match in an already bright room.

I understand why churches and their leaders are tempted to accommodate themselves to culture in a way that compromises and undermines the gospel story God is revealing in the world. Great crowds will gather before what looks flashy and busy and impressive. The still small voice, the Suffering Servant, the cross-bearer, these things just don’t keep the offering plates full. Coming up with a plan that will draw a crowd becomes more important that letting our light shine before men.

God doesn’t need fireworks. He just wants lights.

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