There are a lot of different kinds of bad news. There’s the “we’re out of that the flavor of ice cream you wanted” kind, the “you missed you’re train so you’re going to have to find a way to kill six hours until the next one comes along” kind, the “I just don’t feel like being romantic with you any more” kind. With a passage like this one, it’s easy to imagine taking your problems to Jesus, He takes care of them for you, and you’re on your way again. I think the truth is little more complicated, because the world isn’t always that easy.
I recently learned that my father’s cancer has come back. It’s a profoundly difficult piece of news to get. Sometimes when you hear something hard, you can just be Teflon and let is slide on off. Sometimes it ends up a rock in your rucksack, an extra weight you end up carrying down the road. Sometimes it feels so heavy that you can’t help but wonder if maybe all that weight isn’t going to push you so far down in the mud that you’ll be lost forever.
There’s this thing that happens to me pretty regularly. I discover a musician like Bruce Cockburn, or a place like Amherst, Massachusetts, or a concept like civil religion, and it just clicks with me. I’m fascinated and entertained and overjoyed by how much it feels like it clicks, like it’s always been a part me. Then a few days later I’m on the phone with my dad and it turns out that’s something he’s always loved or been fascinated by. Even when we don’t get along or agree, there’s an unshakable connection.
The fear and hurt that comes from his cancer, that feels less like a burden, more like the road’s been torn up, there’s been a rock slide, the way has been lost in a blizzard.
So when I read this passage from Matthew, I don’t imagine Christ taking a few rocks out my rucksack. I see the Lord finding me and leading on. I don’t know where the Lord is leading me. I don’t understand what this new world looks like. But I trust, that just as Advent leads us to God’s breaking into the world in the person of Jesus, just as the Lord always turns the worst things into the best things, that if I follow, if anyone follows, we will arrive at another place, a better place than this. I don’t have all the answers, but there is a place of peace in that hope.
Prayer for Guidance
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, page 832).