My childhood home had one of those rooms with nice draperies, inviting end tables, lamps and a large couch in which no one to my memory ever sat. It was not for regular family use. Christmas morning, sure, parties, yes, but on a normal day to day basis no one sat in that large front room of the home. There was no TV there, no table to gather around but on one of the side tables there was a large Bible. It was one of those ridiculously large family Bibles that no one ever used.
She gripped the pink and yellow remains with both tiny hands. A little corner stuck out just above her thumb where she nervously bit to calm down. Ripping tearing thrashing by her own hand, the anxiety was too much to keep inside. That faded fabric barley covered her trembling body. But the routine of it all comforted her. The familiar weight of embrace relaxed her tension. The panic that attacks eventually loosened its hands from inside her throat. She could breathe again.
I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about our current state of public discourse and the political climate in our country. Our conversation covered everything from the practice of law on a local level to the impeachment trial being played out for political theater in DC. One of the things that seemed certain to us both is how perhaps the greatest challenge anyone faces in our day is the ability to change their minds, to see things from a different point of view, to admit wrongs and happily go forward in a new direction. Instead of seeking and discovery, there are entrenched views where the other side is shouted down and one happily roams about in their own echo chamber. Perhaps the ability to change is a dying art. Perhaps the rise of the internet and social media has made it unlikely one will change. If this is so, I think we should all be saddened by it. Life has become somewhat less, darker and bleak.
Most of you have heard the story of how I cane to be a pastor. It was not my childhood dream or a sense of duty or something like that. It happened slowly and with great resistance on my part. It came through a growing love for theology and a deep desire to know more. The central question I sought answers for was the fundamental inquiry which has long been at the heart of Christian theology. It is, quite simply, “What must I do to be saved?”
How can a word save you? It can steer away from harm and danger. It can encourage and inspire to do the right thing. It can tell you where to walk and how to live. A word can be a sweet comfort or a stern warning. It can speak of truth in a world of darkness. A word can speak of salvation, if only you can grasp it.
Anxiety is really starting to piss me off. My anxiety always makes me mad, but I’ve begun to train myself with the question, “What does it matter?” Since the answer is usually, “It doesn’t matter at all, so jog on…” But it’s other people’s anxiety that has begun to piss me off too. Now, I don’t yell at those dealing with it, like “GET OVER IT ALREADY!” No, that is neither Christ like, and usually the anxious person’s anxiety is usually increased, and does nobody any good. It’s counter productive.
Last Sunday we talked about the arrival of John the Baptist. This is the great forerunner of Jesus, the famous voice crying out in the wilderness. He shows up baptizing the people of God as they repent of their sins and renew their longing for the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. And as we find out in our text today, John is the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning Elijah the prophet.