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Royal Weddings and Tornadoes

I’ve been thinking about the news these last couple of weeks.  Huge things have happened.  The week following Easter we watched a series of tornadoes devastate parts of four states, and then in a sort of surreal twist, we ended the week by watching a fairy tale wedding.

The royal wedding was viewed by about 2 billion people.  One-third of the world watched those two people get married … about the same number of people as follow Jesus.  It was a precision event in every way and 2 billion of us had chapel-side seats.  We critiqued Kate’s form, behavior and dress.  The wedding was a topic of conversation in coffee shops and kitchen tables.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a few thousand people were beginning to pick themselves up after a devastating chain of tornadoes ripped through four states.  Hundreds of them were identifying the bodies of loved ones while others picked through piles of sheetrock for pieces of family photos and favorite toys.  Thousands of people are still dealing with a very real devastation.

Both events were real.  Both actually happened.  But while the royal wedding was a popular topic of conversation, it actually makes a real difference to exactly two people – Kate and William.  For the rest of us, it was an interesting diversion and a look into an unusual part of England’s culture.  But it wasn’t important.  Not to us.

The tornadoes, on the other hand, made a huge difference to thousands and maybe even millions of lives.  Certainly for those people living under the curse of that unfortunate damage, those storms were not only real but life-transforming.

Maybe there is a word here for those of us who follow and share the story of Jesus.  Because even with Jesus, there are two stories – or at least two ways of sharing the old, old story.  There’s the “happily ever after” story so often told on Christmas eve and sometimes even on Easter Sunday.  It is the truth, and it is the most important story ever told.  But there is a sterile version of it that manages to hit the high points without ever driving home the fact that Jesus matters to our everyday lives.  People who hear that story only never have the benefit of understanding how it might be good news to them.

Then there is the other story.  It is the story of how Jesus meets us in the midst of our devastation and questioning and turmoil, and makes a difference in how we live.  It’s the story of the alcoholic who found Jesus in step one, as he realized just how completely powerless he was. It’s the story of the divorced mom who found Jesus in the rubble of her marriage.  For the main characters of these stories, the “happily ever after” version doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the one about how Jesus saves wretches and casts out demons.

The best lesson on the way to being a more compassionate follower of Jesus may be knowing when to share which story.  I can’t imagine standing with someone outside the rubble of their tornado-ravaged home, asking what they thought about Kate’s dress and hair.  But I can imagine them finding some comfort in the thought that God understands loss, and that in fact, he once made himself nothing for their sake.  That story might make them feel a little less alone.

Isn’t that how Jesus talked to people?  He took mud and lathered it onto a blind man’s eyes so he could demonstrate the power of God.  Among the crowds, he talked about farming and seeds, money and government.  He healed people and gave incredibly practical advice on relationships.  He taught us that the good news of God is best digested when it is served alongside the things we are actually dealing with.

The greatest story ever told was never meant to entertain folks for an hour or two on Sundays.  It was meant to meet us where we are, and take us where we can never go on our own.  Isn’t that a story worth telling?