"As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
'See, I am sending my messenger
ahead of you,
Who will prepare your way ...' "
Mark 1: 2
Reflecting on the text
Who are God's messengers today? What are God's messages today?
Why are the prophets so important to the story of Jesus Christ?
Who has prepared your way, going ahead to make a path?
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As a boy of five or six in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I was in the age of innocence. We played games of "Statues For Sale," "Kick the Can," "Hide and Seek," and, at times, soldiers in "The Game of War." This was just after the Korean War resolved, General Douglas McArthur seemed to be a hero, and "I Like Ike" President Eisenhower presided over a fairly calm and prosperous country.
Our family attended Asbury Methodist Church, one half block down the street, and the Reverend Winslow Wilson was my first memory of that church. He was a "Burl Ives" type teddy bear of a man, with a genuine smile and kind word for all. Then I heard he was a pacifist. I didn't know what that meant. My parents explained that it was a person who objected to violence and who was willing to live the life of his principles. They told me that during World War II, Reverend Wilson went to prison as a conscientious objector because of his strong conviction that war is wrong. The members of the church didn't seem to mind and in fact they admired him. Other people spoke of war heroes, battles and famous generals but at that time we didn't commonly hear of the service and conviction of principle by some pacifists in our country. I imagined that Reverend Wilson represented the values that Jesus would espouse if he was in La Crosse in 1956. I loved Reverend Wilson's stories of Jesus being a "shepherd of the flock," righteous, and forgiving. Reverend Wilson left before my confirmation and, I must admit, I missed him. His replacement was more like St. Paul, the disciple with the sword -- so unlike the gentle Reverend Wilson.
My story of Reverend Wilson resumed years later when our paths next crossed. My wife Carol and I were approaching our wedding date in late August 1976, along the shores of the Milwaukee River in Hubbard Park. At the last moment our plans were fractured by an unexpected occurrence. The minister we hoped would marry us decided he could not perform the ceremony in an outside setting. He believed that marriage ceremonies should be performed in the physical confines of the church. To the rescue came Reverend Wilson, my childhood minister. Serendipitously, he happened to be in town doing a locums and was pleased to perform the ceremony. He believed that an outdoor ceremony was just fine, because of course, it's God's world.
In the same way that Reverend Wilson was God's messenger to me, teaching me the value of kindness, commitment and principle, I hope that I in turn can be a messenger to others through my daily words and actions.