Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Charcoal Grill Theology

So I did something while pastoring in Ohio that I had never done before and have never done since.  Never thought I would do it.  Didn't think I was capable of doing it.  Turns out I am.

I got a phone call from a church member asking me to go and visit his next door neighbor in the hospital.  The guy is in his 80's and he's dying of leukemia.  But he doesn't know that.  And they wouldn't let me tell him.  They warned me that he's mean.  He's angry.  He's bitter.  He hates God and he hates pastors.  (I always get the choice assignments.)  As I drove to the hospital I prayed and asked God for two things.  I asked that this man would have the evil fingers of the father of lies pried from his heart before it is too late.  And I prayed that God would please give me a good parking place because I can never find a place to park at this hospital.

I pulled into the parking lot and the very first spot was open.  No handicap sign.  No pregnant mom sign.  It was mine.  That's what you call a good day.

I got to the ER and found him in a room with his grandson in-law sitting with him.  He looked as horrible as someone can possibly look.  He was coughing up and choking on his own blood.  He was laying on his side and I sat down by his head, facing him.  I introduced myself simply as Ron.  He tried to talk but mainly choked.  He finally asked who I was and why I was there.  I told him that I am a pastor and that I'm concerned about him.  That's when he began using words on me that are generally not used outside of a Hells Angels Initiation Meeting.  Then he began blaspheming God.  Okay, attack me and that's fine.  Go off on the one who gave His life for me and that's an entirely different story.  I tried to talk reasonably to him.  There was no talking.  Just cursing and vile insults.  His grandson in-law had already told me that he is personally a believer at a conservative fundamental church.  During one of the vilest of moments the grandson stepped out.  I had pretty much had enough and this was the moment I was waiting for.

I got down low, directly in the face of this man.  His teeth were coated with blood.  He drooled blood.  Blood was on his hospital gown.  He coughed it up constantly and tried to spit it into a cup on his bed.  I sensed evil in the room.  Cold, sulfur-filled evil.  I could smell the blood on his breath as I stared into his bloodshot eyes.

"You know, I don't want a thing from you.  I don't want your money.  My church doesn't want you to attend.  We don't need or want anything you have.  I'm only here for one reason.  You've already told me that I cannot pray for you.  Well, I am going to anyway, but not until after I leave."

He stared at me with angry eyes.

"You want to know why I am here?"


"Have you ever seen a charcoal grill?"

"Yeah."  (hack.  cough.  spit.)

"Well, I am here to tell you that you do not have to pray with me.  You don't have to do anything with me.  You can hate me and I don't even care.  I won't lose a moments sleep over it. But when I leave here you can silently ask God to forgive you for your evil acts and to save you because of the death of Jesus on the cross.  He will hear you and He will save you.  But if you choose not to do that ... very soon now you will be stuck like a hunk of meat on a weber grill for the rest of a very long time.  Do you understand that?"

Wide eyes but absolutely no response.

"Have a nice eternity."

I walked out of his room.

And now I am shocked by what I said.  I am shocked at the ease with which I said it.  And I am totally stunned that I have absolutely no regrets about one word that came out of my mouth.

I enjoyed my parking space.

 But I was wrong.  I lost sleep over him.