When my sons were little, we went to see the Nashville Sounds, Nashville's Triple-A baseball team. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the visiting team hit a three-run home run. This blast put the Sounds down by five runs with two innings left. From the way the Sounds had been batting that night, there was no chance they were going to come back. So, I told my sons it was time to go because the ball game was over. One of my sons looked at me and then looked back at the teams still on the field and asked me, "Is it over?"
I said, "Yes, it's over. They're down by five."
Again, looking at the teams still on the field and then back at me, he said, "But is it over over?"
"No," I sighed, "it's not over over."
He sat down in his chair with a determined thump and declared, "We're not going home until it's over over!"
Every day, somebody tells us it's over. Our democracy is over. Capitalism is over. Christianity in America is over.
Perhaps. But I will remind these nay-sayers that while it might be over, it's not over over.
Like more and more of my friends, I've stopped watching the news and I spend very little time on social media. I found myself getting angry and depressed over events over which I had no control. Not only would I get angry, I would stay angry. Not only would I get depressed, I would stay depressed.
The news was awful. We were dealing with a pandemic. According to the experts, COVID-19 was just the first of a wave of pandemics set to sweep across the planet. If the first one didn't get you, the next one will. The economy was tanking because of the quarantine and when we finally got back to work, we were crushed by the highest inflation rates in forty years. Every night, the news would be filled with Democrats blaming Republicans and Republicans blaming Democrats. And, of course, nothing was getting done.
When the politicians weren't talking, the "experts" were telling us how bad things were. As if we needed someone to tell us what we already knew. Anyway, they would always end their interviews by telling us it was over. Democracy was over. America was over. Everything was over.
Church was over too. More people had left the church during the pandemic than any other time before. Not only that, but those who were still in church weren't coming to church anymore. They were all staying at home and watching church online. Christianity in America was over. It was just a matter of time.
It was over, we were told. It was all over.
But is it over over?
Probably not. I've lived long enough to know things are rarely as good as they seem nor are they as bad as they seem either.
For one thing, a lot of what has happened in our world isn't the judgment of God as much as the culmination of our own stupidity. If you keep spending more money than you make, you end up broke. That's not necessarily a judgment from God. That's just stupid running its course. Water runs downhill. Stupid runs to consequences. The good news about this, however, is humans do have the capacity to learn. Infrequent as it is, we do learn and when we do, life gets better. Sooner or later, we get tired of having our fingers burned and we'll stop putting our hands on the hot stove. When we do, life gets better.
The second reason I remain hopeful is that I see too many small miracles. Everyone is always looking for big miracles. But, in the Scriptures, it's always small miracles that come before the big miracle. Yes, Elijah called down fire from heaven. But before he did that, he prayed that the widow's oil jar wouldn't run out of oil. The confidence in the small miracle provided the confidence to pray for the big miracle.
I've seen husbands and wives restore their broken marriages. I've seen parents and children restore a broken home. I've seen boys and girls adopted into families and thrive in their new sanctuary of grace. I've seen addicts get sober. I've seen angry people find peace. Like little seeds that will one day cover a field with a bulging harvest, these little seeds of grace will one day blossom into a kingdom of mercy, healing, restoration and love. In the rubble of our mistakes, God does His best work. In the nothingness of our defeats, God brings life. Easter always follows Good Friday. This isn't preacher talk. This is stuff I've seen. This is what I know.
When we don't know what to say, God speaks life.
Jesus is still working. He won't give up. He won't lose.
There is a story told in Appalachia about Daniel Boone. Someone was said to have asked Daniel if he had ever been lost. "No," Daniel said, "I've never been lost, but I've been perplexed for days on end."
Jesus hasn't given up. I won't give up. I hope you don't give up either.
It may be over according to the experts, but according to Jesus, it's not over over. Hang in there. We're not lost. Although, when Jesus returns, like Daniel Boone, we all may have to confess to being perplexed for days on end.