I hated hearing those words as a boy trying desperately to understand and learn the game of chess, because I knew the game WAS over and I had lost again. My father was patient and soon I learned enough to win sometimes and actually enjoy that ancient pastime of drawn-out, bloodless war on a tabletop.
As I look around and observe our culture and the world we live in I sometimes get some of those same feelings I got as a boy—the game's over! Last Fall sportscaster Craig James certainly must have gotten that feeling when he was fired by Fox before he could announce a single game. The same feeling must have come over the appointed president of Mozilla [a giant Internet firm] when pressure was so great that his appointment to that post was rescinded. Both revolved around the same story: someone found out that these believed in the traditional concept of marriage and were not afraid to say so. There have been others who for all practical purposes have had “checkmate” called on them forever having a national career again.
In the May 25th issue of the blog JuicyEcumenism.com writer Jim Tonkowich reported on the guest speaker at the annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. He was Dr. Robert George who is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and he began his message with these words:
“My message for you today is a somber one. The days of acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past. It's no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, a faithful witness to the truths of the Gospel...Things were rather easy in those Palm Sunday days, standing with Jesus and His truths was the thing to do, to be part of the crowd, waving the palm branches, shouting 'Hosanna!' But Palm Sunday has passed; Good Friday looms with the crowds beginning to cry for crucifixion. On Good Friday most of the disciples fled in fear and shame. Only the beloved John stayed...Decide whether or not you will stay! The questions each of us must face are these: Am I ashamed of the Gospel? Am I willing to pay the price that will be demanded if I refuse to be ashamed? Am I willing to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the gospel?...They threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good, evil and what is evil, good. They demand that we conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all. Break their rules at any time, and we could pay a steep price in our careers, social standing, our friendships, our fortunes and our futures!”
What the good professor said we already know. We go about our ways half pretending that things really are not as bad as they seem while national headline after headline, court decision after decision thunders over our heads. We throw up the umbrellas hoping things will work out fine and we will not get too wet. We might even think to follow Dr. George's advice and plow ahead: “Good Friday comes before Easter Sunday! Crucifixion comes prior to resurrection! Persecution comes, then Parousia! [Christ's arrival]” But is that all that is happening out there and is that all that God is doing around us now?
I have been serving five years as interim pastor in a small N. Alabama town. The area is poor, the people are rural and the ministry has been agonizingly hard and slow. In the same week when Israel and the Palestinians were firing rockets at each other with a mounting death toll, when one airliner was shot down over Ukraine and another was lost during a sudden and violent storm, some wonderful things were happening rather suddenly and quietly in rural Alabama. Our Wednesday evening snack and study time unexpectedly had as many unchurched Millennials present as retirees! Driving home the two-hour trip over a road that was a main route about 100 years ago, every little church parking lot we passed was maxed out. No, it was not VBS nor funerals going on. Just the end of wheat harvest and time for church, God and friends! After passing three or four packed lots, my wife exclaimed out loud: “Wow, what's God up to now?”
With the great contrasts we see in society all about us, WHAT IS GOD UP TO? I do not know for certain, but I feel it has something to do with the total uncertainty living in our world brings. Perhaps the ordinary folks, the younger generation, and even the set-in-their-ways older ones are looking for refuge and relief where they have always found it or where they hope it can be found. Whatever the reason, it’s a grand opportunity to feed hungry and fearful souls. The best invitation to seek God is a world that is falling apart!