Thursday, September 12, 2013
The Preacher’s Corner
‘From Ghoulies and Ghosties, and Long-Leggety Beasties, and Things that Go Bump in the Night, Good Lord Deliver Us’
In an old-fashioned frame hanging on the wall of the bedroom where I slept on visits, Auntie Fran kept an old Swedish prayer, drawn in Halloween style letters: “From Ghoulies and Ghosties, and Long-Leggety Beasties, and Things that Go Bump in the Night, Good Lord Deliver Us.”
I imagine she hung it on the wall to comfort her little boy, as I slept in Cousin Bob’s room, for he was grown up and out on his own by the time I came along.
I was reminded of that prayer the other night when I heard an awful thump in the dark. It was enough to get me out of bed to investigate. It came from the bathroom. I suspected a towel rack had fallen from the wall or some such thing.
A careful look turned up nothing, and with misgivings I went back to bed, suspecting that some wild creature had gotten into the attic or into the walls — we are plagued with squirrels and raccoons where I live.
It was not until the next morning that I discovered that a big economy size shampoo bottle had slipped off its ledge and rolled down into the bathtub. I had not peeked behind the shower curtain.
Noises in the night are unnerving. They stir the primal fears of childhood, of things that are bigger than us, things we cannot control.
There are many things we fear, and our fears change as the years go by.
Will we be popular with our friends? Will we be good at the sports we play? Will we make it in college? Will the person we love marry us? Will our children turn out right? Is there enough this month to pay the bills? Will we run out of money when we are old? Is that dull ache in our abdomen some sort of fatal disease? Will we go to heaven when we die?
All these fears involve change. Indeed the Prayer Book asks God to defend us by His gracious help through “all the changes and chances of this mortal life.”
We were taught in seminary that change is the only constant. It is the one thing you can count on, and that God is the only changeless entity in existence. Now the theologians are championing the idea that God changes too. From my study of history, I am sure that our conception of God changes. Presbyterians, at least, conceive of a God who is a good deal kinder than our forebears seemed to believe.
The idea now is that when God changes it is for the better. There are hints of it in the Bible, as in the story of Jonah, when God “repented of the punishment he had planned for Ninevah.”
Be that as it may, we can embrace change, or resist it. We can let fear of change dominate our lives, or we can grab hold of God’s good future. I like to sing one of the hymns that says, “Give to the winds thy fears. Hope and be undismayed. God hears thy sighs, and counts thy tears. God shall lift up thy head. Through waves and clouds and storms, God gently clears thy way. Wait thou God’s time, so shall this night soon end in joyous day.”
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