"Do you remember when you were in the sixth grade," the angel asked patiently, "and you were working on an electromagnet for the science fair?"
Reverend Hobbs, slack-jawed and nearly drooling in stupefied horror, nodded imperceptibly.
"And then," the radiant being continued, "you found a sandwich that had been left too long at the back of the refrigerator and had grown moldy?"
The entire congregation shifted uneasily in their pews, and Reverend Hobbs pictured the millions watching at home doing the same. This metaphor couldn't be heading anywhere good.
"So you used that sandwich instead of making the magnet, and it went pretty well even though that wasn't your original thought. You got a B-plus, if you recall. Would you have gotten an 'A' if you had built your electromagnet? Maybe. But you still liked the mold project, right?"
Hobbs nodded again, weakly. This was a disaster. The angel of the Lord extended his arms as if to say 'there you have it!' and smiled. Near the back of the stadium-like church someone coughed, but otherwise people were barely even breathing. Hobbs had worked so hard over the years to contact an angel, and the first thing it had said was that God had never planned intelligent life to arise in this universe. No amount of gentle prodding had persuaded him to change his story and say that he had been kidding around.
Reverend Hobbs closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "But when you say this universe was just to test physics... in Genesis, we are told that... well, that God made us in His image."
The angel smiled, and nodded, and said no. "No, sorry. That's... well, let's just say there was creative license taken with the Bible. That, and some translation errors. I mean, you have to understand that when we tried to explain this to your ancestors they were a little confused, and it was a long time before anyone actually wrote it down. I know you've played that 'telephone' game before - it's a lot like that." His smile faltered as he watched Hobbs shake his head. "Well, not exactly like that. Religious teachings are certainly better protected than phrases like 'Jimmy eats his own boogers' you understand, but some drift is still bound to occur. It was actually the angels that were created in the image of humans, not humans in the image of God. If you think about it, it makes a lot more sense that way. God doesn't even have a body, not like you could ever perceive anyway. Saying that some frail four-dimensional creatures were built in the image of the Almighty is pretty silly." He chucked as if expecting everyone else to join in at the absurdity of it, and then noticed that everyone else had a look much like a deer in headlights.
"I'm sensing some displeasure with this whole thing," the Angel said in what was surely the understatement of the century, "and I want to make sure you didn't miss the part where I confirmed that there is, in fact, a God who loves you all very much. Well, again, not love in a way you can really recognize... but that's why He made the angels, as sort of an intermediary. So trust me, the closest thing God's feelings toward you can translate to is love. Love, and a kind of curiosity. I guess 'amusement' is pretty close too. You amuse Him, which is a really positive emotion considering the alternatives." A quiet, unhappy murmuring rippled thought the assembled crowd. After a moment, Reverend Hobbs meekly raised his hand. "What about... our souls?"
"Oh, yes, of course you would be worried about those. Yes, your souls are fine - we keep them filed away for our records in case anything happens to the universe."
"Filed away... in heaven?" Hobbs asked hopefully.
"Well, I think by virtue of being where we keep the souls it could be referred to as heaven, yes," the angel replied, "though I think the more accurate way to describe it would be a kind of filing cabinet. You aren't... awake, or anything. There's not really a need for you to be running around playing harps or anything. You can do that sort of thing down here."
"We were told... there is supposed to be a reward for the faithful, an eternity in paradise where we can be close to God."
The angel considered this. He furrowed his brow, and nodded, and held his chin in his perfect alabaster hand.
"I'll tell you what. Once this whole thing plays out and we get the entropy data, I'll ask if we can reactivate you from storage and put everyone in some sort of heaven-like place. Any... any particular requests?"
Reverend Hobbs felt a weight lift off of him. It just didn't matter anymore. "Have you heard of... Valhalla?"