On this 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, I am reminded of the story Dr. Dwight Nelson tells of Colonel Sanders, who said to his executive officer, “Tomorrow evening at approximately eight o’clock, Halley’s Comet will be visible in this area, an event which occurs only once every seventy-five years. Have the men fall out in the battalion area in fatigues, and I will explain this rare phenomenon to them. In case of rain, we shall not be able to see anything, so assemble the men in the theater, and I will show them films of it.” The officer sent a message to his company commander:
“By order of the colonel, tomorrow at eight o’clock Halley’s Comet will appear above the battalion area. If it rains, fall the men out in fatigues. Then march them to the theater, where the rare phenomenon will take place, an event which occurs only once every seventy-five years.” It then went to the lieutenant.
“By order of the Colonel in fatigues, at eight o’clock tomorrow evening the phenomenal Halley’s Comet will appear in the theater; in case of rain, in the battalion area. The colonel will give another order; something which occurs once every seventy-five years.” Then to the sergeant:
“Tomorrow, at eight o’clock, the colonel will appear in the theater with Halley’s Comet, something which happens every seventy-five years. If it rains, the colonel will order the comet into the battalion area.” The sergeant assembled his squad to give the final message:
“When it rains tomorrow at eight o’clock, the phenomenal seventy-five-year-old General Halley—accompanied by the colonel—will drive his comet through the battalion area in fatigues.”1They call it telephone whispers, but what happened to the original message?
Jesus desires that His children be united. Disunity will happen if we lose sight of the original message. The current Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide states, “Any attempt at understanding the nature of unity in the church must begin with God’s original plan at the Creation and then the need for restoration after the Fall.”2
The study guide continues, “Adam’s disobedience became the source of many events and consequences that over time affected all of God’s creation. The natural world itself began to suffer from the consequences of sin. Human relationships also were affected.”3 What happens when brokenness reaches the doorstep of the one called to bring the message of healing, yea, even the pastor? It is in our fallen state that whispers—distortions of the original message—proliferate.
So, what is the original message? “The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God.”4 What is the original message? It is the everlasting gospel. And what is the everlasting gospel? “The very essence of the gospel is restoration.”5
We begin this issue with the marvel of Creation. We journey with pastors through the pain of the Fall. And we embrace with joy the grace of restoration.
The book of Malachi culminates the distortion of God’s original message; the book of Matthew commences the restoration of God’s original message. The old Elijah passes the message to the new Elijah.6 There is no more distortion. It is a heart-turning message. Indeed, “the restoration and uplifting of humanity begins in the home.”7
Malachi highlights the return of the curse, but Jesus highlights the reverse of the curse, the curse distorting labor and creating rulership.8 Men and women are restored to labor side by side in God’s kingdom, as He intended it. “No man or woman who is converted can be anything but a worker. There certainly is and ever will be employment in heaven. The redeemed will not live in a state of dreamy idleness. There remaineth a rest for the people of God—a rest which they will find in serving Him to whom they owe all they have and are.”9
Jesus prayed that this restoration, consummated in heaven, would begin on earth (Matt. 6:10). This is the original message. No more whispers.