I love our church. Amy Pfingst just came into my office and said "I have a reality check for you."
The backstory is that each person was given a flower yesterday as they entered our worship service. In the message from Jonah 4 I talked about how Jonah's concerns and God's concerns were very different. Jonah was concerned about a vine that he had not planted, tended or caused to grow, and only had a short-life span. He loved it because it provided him some temporary relief and comfort. In the story God was ultimately concerned about people who would spend an eternity somewhere. I asked each person to let their flower represent the things that kept them from sharing God's concern. I told the hearers to take the flower home, don't water it, and as it dries, turns brown and withers to let it be a reminder that the things we're most concerned about are often temporary and also to remind us to invest our lives in people.
Now it gets interesting. Amy said that on their way home yesterday Hannah (a seven-year-old with a green thumb) reminded her mother that they must put the flower in water as soon as they get home. Amy tried valiantly to explain my point and informed Hannah that they would not be watering the flower. Hannah repeatedly objected and and again asked "Why?". Amy responded: "Because Mr. Brent said so." Then Danny's voice came booming from the back seat (Danny is a six-year-old with Mike as a role model) "Mr. Brent is Not God!" I almost fell off my chair.
What can we learn from this little exchange. First, it is true - in fact - I am not God. A surprise to many of you I'm sure, but Danny is correct. Second, this exchange is a wonderful illustration of Jonah 4. If I had used the illustration I originally thought of I would have been run out of town on a rail. I almost bought a small tree and set it on the stage, and left it there untended to die. Not a good idea. Besides, some of you would have begun sneaking around and watering it anyway. Why? Because, I'm with Hannah, it just seems wrong to let something whither and die from neglect. But sometimes our compassions getsa little out of whack. Here's a question: how much compassion can we muster for any one of the 155,000 individuals who will leave this planet today - or the other 6 billion who will eventually?