“Sunny day again today, Mr. Bracken.” The slim young man inched toward his boss. He watched for a nod from the gray-haired man sitting behind the desk, and then he took a seat at a nearby chair.
“Yes, just like the company finances. Everything is sun and roses.” Mr. Bracken adjusted his suit jacket and tie, then leaned back in his chair. He placed his arms behind his head and thought for a moment.
“You know, Tim, everything is going so much better since we laid off those 400 people last month.” He brought his arms forward and gestured to a graph in front of him. “Surprisingly, productivity has actually stayed up, and with the trimming of the budget we will all get nice Christmas bonuses this year.”
Tim nodded his head, perhaps a little too vigorously. He tried to cover his shaking hands. “Oh, yes, I can’t wait to tell my wife about our upcoming trip to Barbados. She has been bugging me for a while to book another vacation. I am so thankful that you promoted me to the board at this company. I couldn’t ask for a better job, or a better boss.”
“Well, thank you. I guess I better be going for tonight. You know that I volunteer on the church finance board, and we have a meeting later. I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving service this Sunday. My family has so much to be thankful for.”
“Me, too. Me, too. All thanks to you. Good night, sir.”
“Oh, Sam, whatever will we do now?” The woman looked across the table at her husband, tears rippling in her blue eyes. “I can’t believe that they laid you off.” She stroked her bulging belly. “How can anyone even have the courage to bring children into this world anymore? And your medical treatments, how will we ever, I mean you know the doctor says that the cancer is getting worse…” her voice trailed off as she laid her head down on the table and sobbed.
“It will be ok, sweetie. We need to trust God. He sees what is happening. Cheer up, it’s almost Thanksgiving. At least we have food on the table. The unemployment benefits will pay for that much.”
Tina looked up. “Trust God? But, Sam, we have had no way to go to church in months. Don’t you think God is mad at us?” Tina drew in her breath. “What about our rent, Sam? You know the money won’t cover our rent and your hospital co-pays. How can we choose between the two?”
Tim winced as he rose from his seat. The bones poked out of the hollow spaces of his body, chemo having decimated his once-strong build. He winced as he shuffled over to the other side of the table. He took Tina’s head in his arms and let his tears mix with her own. “I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen. But I do know that God is bigger than my job.”
George Bracken edged up to the side of his black BMW. He patted the gleaming side and whispered, “I love you. You are such a fine car.” He pulled out his remote and beeped the horn, then gave a sideways glance to see if anyone was watching.
A rain drop fell on his head. He looked up at the sky and said, “Well, girl, you ready to go to church? We better get out of her because it looks like the weather is turning bad.”
Tim helped Tina wiggle her way into the passenger seat. Her belly grazed the dashboard. “It won’t be long, now, before we meet you, little guy.” Tim patted his wife’s belly playfully. “You’re going to love it on planet earth. Do you think you’ll be here in time for Christmas?” He kissed Tina’s belly and then he kissed her cheek. “I love you so much. Try not to worry.”
Tim walked around the car and sat down in the driver’s seat. “Ok, old car. I know you’ve been feeling a little sick lately, but we need to go to the human doctor this time. Please keep driving for me, ok?”
The rain came faster and faster. Soon ice began to fall from the sky along with the rain. Traffic snarled and came to a standstill.
“Damn this traffic.” George Bracken pounded his fist on the dashboard. “I have to get to that meeting. The church cannot function without me.” He craned his neck to get a better view, and he saw a side road a few feet in front of him. He slammed his foot on the accelator and jerked his steering wheel left.
The side road was clear. “Now this is more like it. I’ll just find a little short cut.” The car shuddered as the odometer’s needle spun skyward.
Suddenly an old, tan Chevy came into his view. It seemed to be stalled in the middle of the road. George slammed on his brakes, but the BMW careened out of control. Wheels and ice flew together.
Shattering glass and crumpling metal drowned out Tina’s scream.
Tina and Tim looked around. “Where are we?” Tina whispered. Music floated in the air, encircling the emerald trees and making waves on the iridescent ocean. Suddenly they saw George beside them.
“Mr. Bracken?” Tim jumped back. “Wh..What are you doing here?” Tim paused as he realized George was not wearing any clothes. Without his designer suit and tie he looked rather…well, normal, even ugly.
Before the three could gather their thoughts, a man appeared beside them. He stood about eight feet tall, holding a sword on one side and a trumpet on the other. He wore gleaming white clothes, made even more splendorous beside their naked bodies. George’s face turned white, as he covered his eyes with his hands. “It’s too bright,” he cried.
The man put the trumpet to his lips and let out a long, low blast. He said, “I am an angel of YHWH. Come, it is time for the judgement.” He whisked the three up in his arms. As he flew, they could see a city in the distance, gleaming with a white light. Coming closer, they could see an abundance of gold, sapphires, and rubies, the most beautiful kingdom ever seen.
“Look at all the wealth. I can’t wait to tell the other guys about this place.” George was transfixed on the jewels. The angel continued his flight until they came to the city gates. In front of the gates stood a mountainous pedestal holding a gigantic book. The angel set the three down in front of the book. The pages flipped open.
“Tim and Tina, I have seen your struggles.” The three humans fell down prostrate as the voice boomed around them. The angel continued to stand upright, watching the book. “I have seen your struggles, and I have heard your prayers. I saw when you bought your neighbor’s groceries, even though you barely had money for your own food. I saw when you took that orphan child into your home until she could be reunited with her parents. I saw how you helped the sick and the lonely and the imprisoned ones. Your deeds have been recorded in the book. Welcome to my kingdom, my good and faithful servants. Enter into eternal joy. Here you will experience need and suffering no longer.” The angel took Tina and Tim by the hand and raised them to their feet. The city gates opened in front of them, and they joyfully ran into the city.
“Mr. Bracken, I entrusted you with a lot on earth. You went to church and you said my name, but you never knew me. You gained all the world’s money and all the world’s fame, but you helped nobody.”
“Stop, stop!” George cried. “I helped lots of people. I ran my church’s finances. I mean, we used that money to send lots of missionaries to Africa. I also ran that business that my father gave me. I mean, we hired lots of people.”
“NO!” The voice boomed. “You did not hire lots of people. You destroyed lots of people. I saw when you laid all of those people off. Was it really worth your bottom line to let people starve and go homeless? Or did you even think about that?
I saw when you pocketed the kickbacks from those African charities which your church supported. Your life consisted of stealing, killing, and destroying while you sat back and called yourself good. It is all written in my book. You have no place in my kingdom.”
“But, Lord, what about that time I brought computers to that middle school? I mean, I donated those machines, and the publicity was not that much. Or the time that my company sponsored that soccer team. I mean, you do like soccer, right?”
“You are a wicked servant. You are not worthy to see my face or to even say my name. Your good works are a mockery to me. Your church cannot save you.
“But, Lord, I said the salvation prayer. I thought that was enough.”
“Enough! You had ample chances on earth. Your heart is evil, and you are not worthy of the kingdom. Depart from me!”