What Happened to the Church?
You’ll never believe who stopped in yesterday.
“Tim, my friend, how are you?” said the visitor, as he walk right passed me and into my living room. He’s that friend.
“I’m good! To what do I owe the pleasure?” I said, not surprised by his rather eccentric entrance.
“Well, I wanted to show you something. Do you have a few minutes?” he said looking all around the room, but at nothing in particular.
“I’m a little busy,” I said, “But I think I can spare a moment or two.”
“Great! Let’s go. And, hold on.”
Before I had a chance to ask why I needed to hold on, he threw me on his back, the ceiling of my foyer opened up, and we rocketed up into the stormy sky.
“Where … are we going?” I shouted, flapping in the wind holding on for dear life.
“To the battlefield!” he shouted back.
Yes, as you’ve probably guessed by now, The Angel of the Lord was my visitor. He drops in every now and again, usually with some kind of major interruption that " … just can't wait."
We landed hard in a desolate place. No trees, just open plain. But I could see mountains in the distance on either side.
“Where are we?” I said as I tried to get my bearings.
“We’re at the battle field,” he said, now very calm.
I took a closer look around me and noticed that we stood among the dead. Thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of the dead.
“What happened here?”
“A great battle was fought here only moments ago. Their enemy departed just before we arrived,” he said, now sounding like a storyteller. “As you can see, it was a massacre.”
As The Angel of the Lord spoke, we’ll call him TAOTL for short, the stench of the place hit me. Vultures descended. And as the wind kicked up, my eyes watered from the smell.
Then the wind blew harder. And with the wind, night fell; the stars, then the moon, then morning, all in a flash. Time sped around us. I felt like I was standing in a time-lapse photography video.
When it stopped, I looked again. No more rotting corpses. Just a battlefield of bones.
"Who are these people? What did they do to deserve such an end—to be annihilated like this?
“This, dear friend, is the Church. Do you know them?”
I did not respond. I just looked at him as if struck dumb.
“I can see you’ve heard of them,” he continued. “They were once a great nation. A vibrant people who lived like the Wind. Death hates people like that—so unpredictable, yet so powerful in their devotion.”
“But if this is the Church, who was their enemy. You said they, whoever it was, had just departed.”
“Yes, the enemy,” he said as he began pacing, rubbing his chin. “Surely we should have seen their flight. Yes? Well, I suppose we could do another fly-by, but I don’t think that would help. They are, in fact, must closer than you think.”
No army that large could have made such flight. And then it dawned on me.
“There is no enemy taking flight is there?” I said with a growing pit in my stomach.
“No, friend. There is not.”
“They killed each other," I said flatly.
TAOTL did not respond. He continued pacing.
"Why did you bring me here? I have a deadline today,” I said, uncomfortable, and irritated.
“You knew this was happening, ole friend. But you’ve been ignoring it. This raging battle. The gnashing of teeth. The ripping of flesh. Look over there.”
He pointed to the horizon where I’d seen a ridge of mountains.
“That’s their home. A beautiful place. I prepared it special for them. They had lived there for so long. But their arguments and bickering led them to this desolate valley. No water. You know, my kind of water. No springs. Just hard dry ground. A perfect place for a battle. Like dogs they snapped and snarled their way out here, not realizing how far from home they’d wandered.”
He stopped pacing and stared out at the mountains.
“Is there no one left, over there, in the mountains?”
“There is. But they are very young. And scared. There’s no one to lead them,” he said, with a not-so-slight insinuation. He turned his gaze to me, but I looked away, down once again at the bones.
“What are we to do with these bones. Just leave them?”
“Oh no. I have a plan for the bones.”
At this, he stepped close to me and whispered in my ear.
I nodded. Pulled back, looked at him with questions teeming from my eyes, then leaned in again.
He whispered again. I nodded.
I stepped away from his side, and walked into the bones. I breathed deep, and began to sing.
It was a song I had learned as a kid. The words, then, loomed large in my little mind. Now, I’m embarrassed to say, they’ve become somewhat … forgettable.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me …”
I choked on the word “me.” And the weight of the song rushed in on me like a white-capped river rapid. And I heaved. I felt the bones. The waste. The gnashing. The distance. The despair.
“I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see …”
I barely got it out. I buried my head in my hands. And shook. In my ears the words rung out. I heard no wind. Only a cagey rattling, like a witch’s wind chime.
I looked up, astonished.
The bones shook on the ground. Then they rose up, and began to shake and dance in the air, rattling the valley like a war song.
“What’s going on?” I shouted.
“When we’ve been there, ten thousand years … bright … shining as the …”
I couldn’t finish.
The words, again, echoed. And dust whipped up around the bones, covering them. Sinewy figures stood around me now. Erect, but lifeless.
“What’s a happening,” I yelled, trying to shout over the echoing, rattling, and blowing. My hands shook, and my face felt hot. Wind blown and sand blasted.
“Hope!” he shouted. “Hope is happening.”
“How? How is this happening? Will they live again?”
He walked towards me, and drew me close once more. And whispered.
I nodded. Dropped to me knees and began to sob. And the words dropped out of me like a new baby.
“Our Father, who art in heaven … hallowed …”
The word fell off my lips as a droplet into a canyon. A great and terrible wind blew through the valley. It sounded like a shrieking banshee, but I knew it was no mythological force. I crouched low, burrowing into the hard ground, afraid.
“Thy kingdom come …”
I peeked up and saw the heads of the standing dead snap back. And screams, the unholy kind. So many screams. I covered my ears, and bent low once again.
Then, I felt warm hands around my hands. It was TAOTL. He pulled my hands away. And the screams were gone. I heard … singing. He bent low with me, and held my hands close to his heart.
“Do you hear what they are singing?”
I listened for a moment, and nodded.
“Yes, yes. I hear it. It’s so, wonderful. What song is it?”
“Hope, Tim. It’s the song of the Wind—the song of Hope!”
“I want to learn it!” I shouted back, half laughing, half crying.
“You already know it. It’s the song you sing to me in the morning—remember that prayer you sang the other day?”
I just stared at him.
“Remember when you took the kids for your wife so she could get some rest and go shopping. Well, she spent time with me, too. And the song struck deep in her heart.”
“Remember when you prayed with your neighbor before they moved? You felt so insecure, and afraid. But you listened to the song in your ears. And you prayed. And they are attending a church in Jersey now. Remember that annoying guy at the men’s retreat? How unfairly you treated him in front of all those other men. Well, when you went to him after the fire, and asked forgiveness, he returned home and asked his wife for forgiveness—they were very close to ending their marriage.”
“How … how is this possible?”
The dead sang and danced. And we crouched on the valley floor. He held me and continued to remind me of the song.
“You put that song there, Tim. Just from listening to my daily whispers. You know the Wind Song because you sing it. Almost daily. You sing it enough for it to take root in your life. The tune comes to you, and sometimes it scares you. But when you really listen, and heed its tune, beauty awakens.”
He helped me up, and wiped my face with his hands, and kissed my forehead.
“What am I supposed to do now,” I asked.
“Sing,” he replied.
And with that, I was standing back in my house, watching the kettle boil.
“Tim … Tim?” asked my wife.
“Huh?” I replied.
“Is the coffee ready? You okay?”
“Yeah … oh, yeah. Just thinking about hope.”