A few years ago the engine in my car went kaput with only 10,000 miles on it. It took two weeks to get it repaired, but eventually it was good as new. Nobody at the Ford garages, either here in Winchester, where it had its first oil change, or the one in upstate New York, where it was fixed, could explain why the engine failed. “It was just one of those things.”
When the car was finally put back together, a friend drove me to Watertown, New York, to get it. He is really persnickety about clean windows in his car and he introduced me to a product called RainX. He sprays it on the outside of his car windows; that creates an invisible layer of wax which makes the water, and the salt spray, make big beads. Then, when the wipers do their thing, one’s view is clear and pristine. It’s a pretty great product, and now I’m converted to RainX.
This Sunday we’ll recognize and celebrate children and parents who finished a six week course, which we call “communion enrichment.” Most Sundays the parents were with me, and the children were with Carolyn Hughes. It’s been a ton of fun, and I’ve learned a lot from these moms and dads. In an email, one parent wrote to me and said, “except for Sunday mornings I’ve never known anything about the Bible. But whenever we look at a passage in the communion program I feel like it helps me to see, somehow pulls me forward. It’s amazing, sorta like RainX on the windshield.” I laughed, recalling the bottle of RainX in the garage, and hearing the great truth of his insight.
It’s true; the direction of the Bible, the Word, is forward, inevitably and always. Its concern is the future. We look forward when we’re driving—whether the windshield has RainX or not—and the same posture is necessary when we read scripture, to lean into the future. When Jesus disappeared from the tomb, we’re told that he “went on ahead” of everybody, especially blindsiding those fixed on their rearview mirror.
Plenty of religion is loaded with nostalgia; it gets defined by the past. That’s true for our brand of Christianity, too, and it’s even true for some of us. We pine away for the past, unable to glimpse what lies ahead. In just a couple of weeks, we’ll enter the pathway of Holy Week, and encounter parts of scripture that tell us about our lives, as well as parts of scripture that don’t fit, or actually grate. In all of this the tasks of interpreting and reflecting on scripture, as those parents did every Sunday these past six weeks, clears the way so that we see forward. If you think about fundamentalism, which at its worst is a compulsion to retrieve and preserve the past, we see how foolish and impossible it is.
What I heard in that young dad’s analogy of God’s Word with RainX was a reminder that scripture is living and active, waiting for us to do something with it. Maybe today, and in the weeks to come, we can see faith as a deep confidence in God’s future, not living in the past, but leaning forward, able to see exactly where we are going.
Faithfully in Christ,