For many of us with connections to English ancestry - and I imagine pretty much for everybody else, save the poor southern survivors - it was such a stark contrast to turn on the TV early Friday morning and see the grand majesty of the royal wedding, and the royal kingdom, and the great wealth, and the gilded everything. It was captivating to see such joy; to hear the multitudes cheer for the bride on her way to the union; to hear the bells ring loud proclaiming the moment at hand; to hear the angelic chorus. Yet it was surreal knowing full well that people back home were just trying to pick up the pieces, literally, if they could even find them. How could it be so joyous, so wonderful, in one place - completely oblivious to the death and destruction elsewhere?
I lay no particular claim to the storm as those who lost their homes, their friends, their lives, but it did lay claim to places found in memory. I used to play ball in Smithville's tiny but proud State Champion's stadium, now gone. They, a town of maybe 900, regularly whooped our town 3 times larger. It really hit home thinking I'd been right there in those fields, at the epicenter, where 14 folks died and where 14 are still missing.
It really hit home seeing the pure and total destruction. The first F-5 to hit Mississippi since before my birth years ago which was just 8 miles down the road. Objects and people in its direct path were simply no more. And folks on the fringe fared little better. Just like that, a wasteland. Where the last investment in a new building was probably before the last F-5 and where rebuilding may not be in the future - easier to start over in bigger Amory a few miles away. The potential death of a community, notwithstanding its proud past and people.
And still, thousands of miles away, a great gulf betwixt us, the bells kept ringing, the multitudes kept rejoicing, the smiles never parted, and joy radiated from every corner of the kingdom.
I don't think I've seen a starker contrast of heaven and hell here on earth. And I imagine, as much as is humanly possible, that the real contrast between heaven and hell not here on earth is so much starker. In Luke 16 the rich man looked up in torment from Hades and saw the rest that poor Lazarus had in Abraham's bosom and he begged for Lazarus to be allowed to put just a drop - not a cup, or a sip, but a simple drop - of water on his tongue. Not to be, because there is just a great gulf fixed betwixt us, and no one can cross over. Too late once the F-5 rolls through.
News stories "trend" nowadays, and the more "popular" they are, the more coverage and webspace are devoted to them. And despite the historic destruction, the consistently larger audience trended towards the royal wedding to the point a few days later tornado coverage was struggling to be a 1/3 of the wedding's.
I'd like to think that would be similar to our view. That our focus would continually be on Heaven because it's the prize Hebrews 12 says not to take our eyes off of. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that we're simply like the rich man's brothers - we want to forget the other place exists. Just send someone to warn them, he begged Abraham. "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them". The tornado siren goes off. Do we run to Cover or just say not our town, not me, not today?
In reading the latest from Smithville, turns out I may get to keep my copy of "Twister" after all. Jim Weigel, 39, recounted to the Wall Street Journal his more than close brush with death. He grabbed a well pipe, anchored deep, and held on. His body flew up in the air, legs a flapping in the wind, while his house a few feet away literally got sucked out of existence, leaving only a concrete slab. The well of life for Jim, you might say. "I saw it hit the Pig [Piggly Wiggly grocery store for the uninitiated] and I had to come here and hang on…for dear life". Sounds a lot like The Well of Life, kindly telling the Samaritan woman mired in sin that the well He gives springs up to eternal life.
Won't we grab a hold?
If you asked me where I'd rather have been last week, at the palace or back in Smithville, I'd pick the palace 7 days a week and twice on Sunday. Where the multitudes cheer, where the bride is united with The King, where the angelic chorus sings. No tears, no tears up there.
Luke 16:24 And he cried out and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame."