“DESTINED TO CHOOSE”
by Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife
Some jokes don't work well unless the audience has certain information. In elementary school, elephant jokes were all the rage, but they would have meant nothing to someone who had never heard [not “herd”] of elephants. And there's a joke which ends with “So the officer says, 'Do you know how fast you were going?' and Professor Heisenberg says, 'No, but I know where I am.' “ It's only funny if you're familiar with subatomic physics and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
So before I share the joke that I used to open my first sermon as pastor at Goodold Baptist Church, I think I should preface it with a brief theology lesson.
Throughout church history, the debate has raged over predestination vs free will: oversimplified, how much of what happens in life is predetermined and how much is due to our choices? One's view has significant implications for concepts like salvation, prophecy, and moral responsibility. An issue which comes up a lot is whether or not a person who is genuinely saved can somehow lose eternal life, or is “eternally secure”. [Please don't turn the “comments” section into a debate. I only bring this up so the joke will make sense. This is still “Incessant Divagation”, not “Theology Smackdown”. Although “Theology Smackdown” sounds like an interesting idea . . .]
Anyway: I began my first official sermon as pastor by saying . . .
A man in town came to me and asked for some advice about what church attend. The church he went to for many years recently split over the matter of predestination and free will. The two sides held extreme positions,but he hadn't made up his mind on the matter.
Based on where most of his close friends worshiped, he tried the “predestination” church. He was asked why he came there, and replied, “I looked at my options and chose this one.” “Chose? CHOSE? How dare you mock the supremacy of God's will?” He was roughly escorted off the premises.
The next Sunday he tried the “free will” church. When asked why he was there, he was thinking that he'd exhausted his other option, so he innocently replied, “I didn't really have any choice.” You can guess how well that went over . . .
So, he asked me, “What should I do? I'm so confused!”
I said, “Obviously, you should come to Goodold Baptist Church! If you're confused, I'm sure you'll fit right in!”
. . . And to show you what a kind bunch of people I had in the congregation, after that joke they still let me keep my job.
But I have a feeling that the head deacon wasn't amused. Soon after, he gave me a gift certificate from a local funeral home for 30% off a deluxe funeral package. That seemed generous, but I noticed two unsettling clauses in the fine print. First, it was non-transferable, which it could only be used for my funeral. That wouldn't have been so bad, but the other clause said, “Must be redeemed within 60 days”.
Then he tried to send me on a church-funded missions trip to the middle of the Sahara desert. Sounded good until I saw that the plane ticket was one way, not round trip, and disembarking the plane was to be done by parachute.
I knew I'd better figure out what to do about this guy or I'd have no end of trouble. So I came up with “Every Member Rebaptism Day”. It was an all-afternoon event, each member of the church being baptized by immersion one after another. When it came time for the head deacon to participate, I treated him like all the rest . . . except that I held him under for eight minutes.
Didn't have any trouble from him after that.