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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Don’t Meditate Beforehand

In his “Olivet Discourse” (though it’s not described as taking place on the Mount of Olives in the version told by Luke) Jesus gave his followers a description of the signs and the times that would precede the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world (at least as they knew it.)  Embedded in that apocalyptic checklist is an instruction that I have a great deal of difficulty keeping.

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. Luke 21: 10 – 15 (RSV)

As an Introvert I tend to rehearse conversations before they happen.  In my alone time I think about the various ways a future conversation may go.  If I say ‘this’, they may reply with ‘that’, and then I can say … and so on. And even though the conversation may not (usually doesn’t) go the way I’ve projected, having practiced it beforehand allows me to feel less anxious during the actual conversation when it happens.   And yet, here is Jesus telling his followers not to meditate on these conversations in advance.  They are to be in the moment, in the now.

I joke that some of my extroverted friends don’t know what they’re thinking until they say it out loud.  I’m much the opposite.  I like to know what I’m thinking before I start speaking.    I want to speak clearly and concisely, without wasted words. I don’t want to just ramble on until I hit upon a true statement.

I don’t think that’s quite what this instruction is intended to mean. The context of the entire discourse is that we’re not to be afraid of imminent future calamities.  We’re not to be afraid of wars or natural disasters or of being dragged in front of courts and kings.  We don’t have to be anxious.  We don’t have to be nervous.  If we are consistently living in (and living out) the love of God from day to day, then when we are called upon to give testimony to that love we won’t have to scramble for the words to say. We will have already embodied that love.  

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