When humanity finally figured out a way to reach the stars, and found intelligent life there, there was an inevitable result.
Some of the missionaries were sensitive an helpful, in their own way. Some, not so much.
For Delbert, the landing on the newly discovered planet was inevitable. There weren’t that many, but even so the difficulties of the work and the expense of travel meant that there were two few missionaries. As a committed Christian, it was his duty to preach the gospel to these creatures who had never heard it. In Delbert’s mind, they would doubtless be eternally lost should he fail in this mission. After all, would God have opened up the opportunity if the message was not essential?
He absorbed only a fraction of the required briefings from the scientific mission. Things like “recent catastrophic extinction event” and “not socially primitive despite appearances” didn’t overcome the general sense of primitive natives needing the benefits of both civilization and and dispensation of the truth.
So it was surprising and frustrating when the natives responded to Delbert’s preaching not with opposition nor with acceptance, but rather with a sort of puzzled surprise.
“Of course,” said the native chief, whose name Delbert could not pronounce, and whose body form seemed entirely wrong. No amount of invitation, however, nor singing of hymns, which interested the natives in some unknown fashion, would bring them to actually accept the message he was preaching. Delbert was unsure how the computer translator rendered all of that in any case. He assumed it was getting his preaching right.
He had expected either hostility or eager acceptance. He had come across the light years by means these natives couldn’t possibly understand to bring the message of the cross, one of hope for them as well as for natives of earth, no matter how far away. He had distantly admitted to himself the possibility that the natives would be apathetic, refusing to acknowledge their need of a savior.
But they remained friendly, listened to his preaching, and then responded by saying things like, “Yes, it would have to be that way.”
It took weeks for Delbert to become so frustrated that he decided to ask the chief of the local community what the issue was. The result only increased Delbert’s surprise.
“The best thing would be for you to attend one of our worship services,” said the chief.
It took a full minute for Delbert to recover. “You have worship services?”
“Of course,” said the chief. “Did you imagine we wouldn’t?”
Delbert chose not to respond to that as he didn’t know what to say that would meet both the needs of his mission and minimal courtesy. “I would be delighted to attend,” he said, not entirely truthfully. “Are there any requirements? Things I should avoid doing?”
“Just come and hear,” said the chief.
Delbert imagined he was hearing humor, but he thought he remembered the briefers telling him the natives didn’t do human-style humor. He almost wished he had listened more closely. But then he thought of how this would help him understand how to reach these people with the gospel message.
It turned out that the service was held in one of the natives’ underground meeting halls. The room might have been beautiful, if it was not so confusing to human eyes.
“Avert your eyes from the walls and ceiling,” said the chief.
“Oh, is it not allowed to view them?” asked Delbert.
“It’s allowed, but it is not good for the sanity of your people,” said the chief. “Averting your eyes will keep you from trying to find a pattern where none exists that your mind can process.”
Delbert was not sure when the meeting began, or even if had not been in progress when he entered. There was a confusing background sound that seemed to hover at the edge of some sort of order, but always to fail to cross that threshold. Delbert had to instruct his translation device to quit attempting a translation, as it kept popping up random words that meant nothing at all. Or perhaps they did. Delbert was disturbed by the sense that he almost understood something.
Then a single voice took over. The translator still struggled, but it seemed to get the drift, while individual words were more difficult.
I will narrate separately today to underline this tale for our guest.
In recent-ancient times the creation trembled-groaned and was disturbed. The world itself was in agony. The forces of chaos throughout this area gained the ascendance.
It was the task-duty-mission of the people to bring the blessing of constancy-spirit-salvation to the mechanics of this system-locale-epicenter-of-presence.
The task-duty-mission proved too great for the people and the forces of chaos continued to build against the epicenter-of-presence. There was a final stroke of the forces of chaos that came to destroy the people and the epicenter-of-presence.
There was a considerable period of time filled with conflict, and Delbert found himself weeping. Somehow the sorrow communicated in a way that much else had done.
The epicenter-of-presence, the being of constancy-spirit-salvation would remain with the people. Great destruction still to come. Great sorrow. Much death. But no aloneness.
Then the rejoicing was almost more painful than the sorrow, the destruction, and the aloneness. Delbert was uncertain how long a time had passed. As the chief started to leave, he stumbled along, guided by the alien form.
“How else could it be?” asked the chief when they reached the surface. “The very being that fills the epicenter-of-presence comes to be with the people in their time of travel. We were so joyful to realize you understood this as well, but feared the consequences to you of joining in our worship. It could have destroyed you.
Delbert was not entirely certain it hadn’t.
(Featured Image Credit: Openclipart.org composite.)