I’ve been teaching through the book of Acts with our youth group. And, I’ve been paying special attention to instances of mercy (both God to person and person to person) to bring out Luke’s Parable of the Good Samaritan vision. This is an ethic set within the larger context of an overwhelmingly evangelistic overall theme. So, while preparing my Sunday sermonette (high schoolers can handle about 15 minutes) I stumbled across this little parable by Alex Sims at Common Grounds. Due to my teaching focus and our recent video of the week which highlighted a bit of the pomotivational king’s theology; I decided to tweak the story a little and toss it up for greycoat perusal.
A Pastor and an IRS Agent
A Pastor and an IRS Agent both had a flight from Denver to DC. They were flying Southwest Airlines, which uses open seating: passengers board and choose their seats in the order they check in.
The Pastor was attending a conference in DC entitled Pastoral Evangelism in a Postmodern World. He was one of the first people to enter the plane. As he boarded, he passed a nursing mother and thought to himself, “I’m glad I checked in early.” (In reality, his assistant had checked him in.) The Pastor walked to the back of the plane because he knew the front was more likely to fill up. He settled on a window seat a few rows from the back, but not too close to the lavatory because that also gets crowded. He placed his briefcase across the middle seat in the hopes that it would deter anyone from sitting there. As he saw the plane start to fill up, he knew someone would be sitting on his row, so he pulled out his iPod to signal: I’m not interested in chatting. After all, he had a speech at the conference to prepare for, and it wasn’t like he was going to develop a meaningful relationship on a three hour flight. By the time a middle-aged woman sat in the aisle seat on his row, he had his earphones in. As he scrolled through the playlists on his iPod, he felt some satisfaction in how much he’d kept in touch culturally. He picked a playlist with Sufjan Stevens, U2, Bon Iver, and some other indy artists. Yes, he was hip, cutting-edge, relevant. The Preacher then leaned back his seat and polished up his speech. He never noticed the middle-aged woman order 4 vodka tonics throughout the flight or the brace on her leg and the cane she used to support her gout infested right foot. He missed the flight attendant’s black eye which she had furiously attempted to conceal with makeup. Not only that, but he missed the reality that comfort one day will have its price.
The IRS Agent was attending a conference in DC on new tax rules for the upcoming fiscal year. The Agency had closed some loopholes, and they were training their agents to crack down on audits this year. By the time he boarded the plane, it was pretty full. Between researching March Madness and filling out bureaucratic paperwork, he hadn’t remembered to check in online. He took the first open seat he saw, which was a middle seat between the nursing mother and an overweight man. The IRS Agent was a pretty big guy, so squeezing in was tough. He crammed his briefcase underneath the seat in front of him. He had planned to review some new tax rules, but with no elbow room he decided that would be too much of a pain. He was silent at first because he felt intruding and awkward striking up a conversation with strangers. But after take-off, he got bored and turned to the heavy guy next to him and asked, “What do you think about the Broncos this year?” This led to both men agreeing on the decline of NFL player character across the board. The IRS Agent asked his new friend, “Why do you think that is?” which initiated a short conversation about original sin.
After about an hour he offered to hold the mother’s baby while she went to the bathroom. He noticed the child’s ragged shirt and tucked a $100 bill and also a small New Testament into the diaper bag under the mom’s seat. You see, the IRS agent was also a Gideon. He made his neighbor swear not to say a word. But, by the time the flight descended onto DC, they’d all three determined that Jay Cutler would win the 2009 MVP. And, they had all three experienced the mercy of God’s common grace found in simple companionship.
Which man better understood the Gospel?