What is worth knowing

Pastoral Messages | June 6, 2024

Recently, I’ve been catching up on a 2023 Netflix miniseries called, “Bodies.” I’m only halfway through it, so I don’t risk tipping any spoilers (and I’ll appreciate it if no one sends any my way). What makes it fascinating to me is the central role that time travel seems to play in the plot. Spanning four time periods, from 1890 to 2053, stretch characters, names, and dynamics that are obviously all connected in some way. Just how that can be is the mystery at the heart of the show. The uncertainties and curiosities in each of the eras give the story its tension and drama.

From the outside, viewers follow a fascinating story; living it on the inside, the characters experience fear and heartbreak, confusion and frustration. Without access to time travel for ourselves, our own lives feel more like the characters’ and less like the viewers’. Will the high school student who just squeaked through graduation figure out how to be a college student? Can I count on having enough to last out my retirement? Will losing the job I haven’t liked turn out to be a blessing? Is the opportunity I’m relishing right now really just too good to be true? Can the Bettendorf girls’ soccer team repeat as state champions in 2025?

Looking back on our lives, we can see moments where questions like these came out with opposite answers. Some moments felt disastrous but put us on a better path, but some disasters were just that. Our frustration that we couldn’t accept a juicy offer may have been tempered by finding out it was a boondoggle and would not have ended well; unless it was good, and we missed out. We are all too aware that “past performance does guarantee future results” – but sometimes the future results are even better. Without time travel or supernatural knowledge, how do we deal with the uncertainty of the future?

If we turn to scripture, John’s gospel offers a paradigm of that predicament. John shows Jesus in conversation with the disciples on his last night with them. Of course, John the gospel writer knows a lot about what would happen in the sixty or so years from that night to the time when he was writing. But in his story, the disciples are confused and uncertain. They are like the people in John’s community and like us: they don’t have any special knowledge. Nor does John know about his future, or his community’s, or ours. But he does know what has sustained the Jesus followers over those decades, and he offers it to his community through what Jesus says in the story.

Jesus tells them, “I am going away. You have the Spirit, the Advocate. Abide in my word. This is peace.” What John announces as Jesus’ gift and promise, from God, is not an easy road or a hard one, not success or failure, not affirmation or criticism. Life will bring all of those at times and in ways that we cannot know in advance. What John says is that living in the word of Jesus, which comes down to “love one another and live for one another,” is the way to feel the reality that God is with us throughout all the ups and downs.

I don’t know where “Bodies” is going in its remaining episodes, but it’s intriguing to know already that the tagline of the mystery is “Know you are loved.” That’s about the best knowledge I can imagine carrying into the future.

-Peter A. Pettit, teaching pastor

One comment on “What is worth knowing”

  • Marcia Willi

    June 6, 2024 at 5:12 pm

    What resonated w/ me was the sentence “ know you are loved”! I never doubt God’s love and presence in my life.

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