Your Future is Greater Than Your Past

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   An old book on friendship was saying that young people find it easier to make friends, because they are not yet burdened with the wounds of life. The view has plausibility. When life is young and the world full of unexplored possibility, one readily enters into friendships. Then, later on, one may have a friendship (or a few friendships) whose depth and importance lie precisely in the friendship’s longevity. “He’s been my friend since college,” you might say. Or, “I’ve known her since we were both new hires at MCI.” (Remember MCI?)
    And when one has experienced the richness of a long-matured friendship, it can be hard to launch into a new one. An older person might well feel the weight of the past and the uncertainty of the future, and judge it just isn’t worth the candle to try to make new friends.
    As the old book was saying, friendship seems easier for the young.
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    Thank God for the Trinity! (Thank God for himself!) The great Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson speaks of the Holy Spirit as the future of God. Jenson has a way of putting temporality into the being of God. He understands the Triune Identity to be the author of creation. God is also a character within the story of creation, the Word incarnate who is Jesus of Nazareth.
    But God is not just, as it were, behind us (as creator or source of our being); he is not just, as it were, beside us (as a fellow human, Jesus); God is also in front of us. The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee that, in the end, our life will be meaningful—that history will have a shape and a purpose and an end. The end of all things (and not just their beginning) is God.
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    This means two things that are pastorally important.
    First, God is in your own future. Thus your life can have eternal significance, thanks to the God in whom you put your trust.
    Second, with God in your future, there is more life in front of you than in your past. For although your life will come to an end, that end of your life is given by the Holy Spirit, and it is hidden in Christ, hidden, thus, in the triune life of God.
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    Let me put it another way. In Christ, there are no old people. All of us have before us more life, more living, more excitement and adventure. Whether we are 15 years old . . . or 45 . . . or 75 . . . or even if we are 105 years old, there is still more to our future than there is to our past.
    So, to get back to the question about friendship, there is no reason for people of any age to hold back from making friends. Our future in Christ, the lure of the Holy Spirit, is a future of more and more friends.
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    Out & About. This Sunday, February 26, I’m preaching at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 11122 Midway, Dallas, at 8 and at 10:30 a.m.
    Monday, February 27, is the first session of a three-week class on Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest’s Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away. We’ll do Part I that evening. The class meets at 6 p.m., for one hour, at Church of the Incarnation, 3966 McKinney, Dallas.
    Ash Wednesday, March 1, I’ll be preaching at the traditional services at Church of the Incarnation, which are at 7 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.

    The following Sunday, March 5, I’m preaching at St. Paul’s Church, Prosper, at 8:15 and 10:30 a.m., and teaching the adult class at 9:15.

What God Hath Done

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The late Fred Craddock was a professor of preaching for many years down at Emory, although I learned that he had early in his life taught at a college in Enid, Oklahoma, and knew some of the people from my home town. It was at the College of Preachers in Washington that I got to learn from him.

His sermons were full of stories of things in his life where he saw something remarkable. He insisted, however, that his life was just like everyone else’s. God wasn’t any more present to him than to anyone else; his life was no more remarkable than anyone’s. What was different, he said, was that he didn’t let his life run through him like a sieve. Instead, he wrote things down.

He told us that he had notebooks full of things he had noticed and written down shortly after they happened—written by hand, by pencil, “just as God intended,” he said. It was an inspiration to me.

One little notebook of mine has recently surfaced. It looks like I took Craddock’s advice to heart, if only half-heartedly. There are short entries written in pen, scattered over about five years, starting in 1992. I was a rector back then in a small church in the Hudson Valley. 

Indeed, remarkable things were happening, most of which, I find, I have forgotten. I’m thankful for Fred Craddock; thankful for this notebook; thankful indeed for what God has done.
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[An entry from June 1992:] There are two relatively new families whom I hadn’t seen for a few weeks. I called one last week. “Hi, this is Father Austin, just thinking about you and wondering how you are.” Apologies for missing church, and explanations—out of town, etc.—then: “I just came home from the doctor and I’m pregnant. Want to speak with [my husband]?” They were happy and proud, surprised too at the speed of things. 

And then, yesterday, I phoned the other couple. Apologies for missing church, and explanations, and guilt over laziness, and then: “We’re expecting another baby.” 

I wondered, whom should I call next?
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Out & about. This Sunday, February 19, I’ll be preaching at the 10 a.m. service at St. Andrew’s new Westridge campus in McKinney: 2301 Eden Dr. It meets in an elementary school there.

There will be a three-week class on Losing Susan at Incarnation, starting Monday, February 27, at 6 p.m. Each week we’ll take up one part of the book: I’ll offer some theological reflections on that part of the story, and then we’ll open it up for discussion. Incarnation is at 3966 McKinney Ave., Dallas.

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."