by Linda McMillan
Only five days left until the end of the world, right? Are your friends as jittery about this inauguration as some of mine? Maybe you feel jittery too.
Almost everybody I know has been doing something to prepare for what may happen after inauguration day. They are getting ready. Some are investigating job opportunities in other countries, or immigrating for good. Most are just digging in and pledging to write more letters, be more vocal, or even change the way they pray. I have one friend who bought more guns, not that she needed even one more. But it all illustrates that people are getting ready, even if not very effectively.
In today’s readings, there is an undercurrent that’s not spelled out, and the undercurrent is preparation. John the Baptist — the one who prepared the way for the Lord, the one who made his path straight by identifying him — didn’t even know Jesus. They didn’t grow up together, pledge the same fraternity, or run in the same circles. Sure, they were cousins, but John assures us — two times — that he did not know Jesus.
Yet, John recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God right away. How could he possibly recognize Jesus if he didn’t know him from somewhere? Right after John said that he didn’t know Jesus he said, “but…”. The first time he said, “…but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” In other words, even though he didn’t know who the Son of God would be, John knew that he would come and so he started getting ready. He prepared, and he helped other people get ready too. In the second instance, John said, “…but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” John knew what to look for and he actively looked for it. He had been praying about it. He was ready.
The text is also clear that Andrew and the other disciple who followed Jesus were prepared. They had been looking for Jesus too. That’s why when John said, “There he is…” they left John and followed Jesus. This was what they’d been getting ready for. Later, when Andrew went to find Simon Peter, he didn’t have to explain who Jesus was. He simply said, “We have found the anointed one.” It is obvious that they had been looking for him. They had been preparing. Maybe for a long time.
We all know that there is about to be a great change in our country. But, beyond that, nobody knows the future. It is not one of the things that can be known. No amount of fretting about it or imagining how we might respond will suddenly reveal what will or will not happen. But, we can prepare. There are things we can do to get ready — And I don’t mean you should buy guns, leave the country, or stockpile food.
First of all, forget about the bread of anxiety
on Facebook and live out your highest values today. If you really value anxiety, then some of you are on the right track already. But, if you value compassion, generosity, friendship, if the fruits of the Spirit mean anything to you, or the Baptismal Covenant, then practicing those values today is what will prepare you for tomorrow. I don’t mean talking about them, or writing them down, or even praying about them, though it probably wouldn’t hurt to pray. I am talking about actually living them. That’s right, it’s not the letters you write or the marches you march in — though those are good things to do — it’s the values you practice every day that prepare you for the future.
Write a letter, or call a friend for no reason. Make a donation to your favorite charity, give more than you can really afford. I promise you, you will feel so happy. Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it. Shoot, forgive Donald Trump. He is a sick man, and he is probably going to hurt us. The forces of evil will have won if we become so involved in what has been done to us, or what might happen in the future, that we forget how to be joyful servants in God’s kingdom today.
I know joyful people who actually live in a police state, most in a camp for internally displaced people, though it’s not overseen by the United Nations. It’s not that nice. These are real people living under real oppression. They have told me stories about times when they showed such great courage that they were amazed, and they gave such thanks to Allah that they could be so brave. And I have also heard stories where they were not as brave as they thought they’d be, and there is disappointment and self-recrimination. “I never thought I could be one of those,” they say. Sure. You know why? Because we don’t know the future. Just like you don’t know what will happen to you, you don’t know how you are going to respond to it either. Nobody knows that.
So practice what’s important today. In the future, you might have to forgive yourself. Practice on others! Your heroism might go unnoticed. Become an anonymous hero today. Any number of things could happen to you on the wild ride that may lie ahead. You can practice dealing with that by keeping on an even keel today. It will help you stay balanced in rougher waters later.
Now, if you’ll excuse me… I need to get ready!
Linda McMillan lives somewhere in the Jiangsu Province of China.
Some Notes of Possible Interest
Lamb of God is a strange thing to say about Jesus. He had never been called that before. Lambs were sometimes used as a sin offering, and that might be what John meant when he said, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” But so were bullocks, goats, turtle doves, and even flour. So, why Lamb of God? Why not the Goat of God? A lot of people have written about that, but none of them really explained it to me. Maybe you’ll have better luck. Leviticus 4.