WORD FROM THE PASTOR: Foreseeing the Future

One of the most vivid experiences of my childhood was a visit to Disneyland.  I especially remember the Tomorrowland exhibits, and the captivating visions of the future displayed there.  The future, according to Disney, would include kitchens that cooked meals automatically, flying cars, cars that could be programmed to operate themselves while the family played a board game in the back seat. 

And now, 40 years later, we’ve got  crock pots, microwaves, and cruise control.  Not exactly what Walt envisioned.  (Although the story is told–perhaps an urban legend–of the man who mistook his car’s cruise control for autopilot.  He set the cruise control, closed his eyes, and drifted off to sleep–while the car almost immediately drifted into a ditch.  Perhaps as a child he  watched the same Disneyland films I did).

Whenever we imagine the future, we’re almost inevitably going to get it wrong.  A film like 2001: A Space Odyssey or a TV show like Space 1999 assumed that the human exploration of space would progress much more quickly than it did.  (Star Trek, on the other hand, was wise enough to set its stories in the 25th century–when none of us will be around to verify whether interstellar travel is possible). 

A number of years ago, the idea of the personal computer was presented to the president of a major computer company–and his response was that only about seven homes in America would want to own one!

Predictions of the future almost always fail.  Even in comparatively small matters, like forecasting who will win the Super Bowl, or the World Series.  When we try to peer into the future, we usually end up looking at a blank wall. 

Because, in the end, the future belongs to God.  That’s really what Jesus is telling us in his famous words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34).  We can trust the future to God, for He has it under control.

There are many things I would like to see happen in the coming year.  I would like to see the War on Terror come to a successful end.  I would like to see religious revival in our country.   I would like to see myself and everyone at St. Paul’s grow in their love for God, their devotion to Jesus.  (And, frankly, I’d like to see the Cubs win the World Series!)

That’s my vision of the future!   And I certainly would propose these things to God in prayer–they are worthy and beautiful.

But I also realize...that the future often turns out different from the way we envision it.  That’s why St. James tells us that, whenever we make plans, we need to add the condition “God willing” to our plans.  “You do not know what will be tomorrow...So you ought to say, if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  (James 4: 14,15).   The future is ultimately determined by God. 

And He has a wonderful future for us, even if it’s not the future we envision!  Whatever the future brings, it ultimately brings blessing.  One of the most beautiful and beloved verses in the Bible is  Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts I have toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you hope and a future”.  God has wonderful plans for us.  It does no good for us to peer into the future and try to figure them out.  “Do not worry about tomorrow”.  But we can live confident that God’s plans are absolutely right.  “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:25).

Because I can’t see the future, I sometimes get the feeling that stepping into a New Year is similar to stepping into a darkened room.  It’s a somewhat intimidating experience.  (I stumbled over a step in a darkened furnace room once–it felt like I fell forever until some pipes broke my fall!)  But there’s an old saying: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the One who holds the future.”   When you’re walking through a darkened room, the best thing you can do is take the hand of the one who knows the way.  And that’s the very best thing we can do this year–to put our hand in God’s hand.  (Remember–those are the very hands that were nailed to the cross for you!  If you can’t trust those hands, you can’t trust anything.)

John Henry Newman once wrote these powerful words in a hymn:

Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom

Lead Thou me on.

The night is dark and I am far from home

Lead thou me on

Take that my feet, I do not ask to see

The distant scene–one step enough for me.

“I do not ask to see the distant scene...”  I trust the future to God.  All I ask is that He lead me one day at a time into that future.

His hand is extended.  He beckons me into 2005.  As long as I am holding onto that hand, this new year will bring me no fear!

God loves you and so do I!