Reading "Watchmen" (to catch up with a 20-year-old pop cultural phenomenon as well as plumb its Nixonian resonances), I started having apocalyptic dreams as the story's looming nuclear holocaust resonated with the world's real-life economic nightmare. Friends and fellow worshipers tell me they're feeling oppressed by dread that bad times will get even worse as well as by the private emergencies of sickness and alienation that plague the people of God irrespective of the Dow Jones average.
One friend told me that her limbs felt heavy and weak from constant worry over a problem at home. Because of the scripture readings for this week, her comment reminded me 100-year-old Abram (later Abraham). He and his wife Sarai had no heir. Everybody in town was no doubt gossiping about him. He was exhausted and disillusioned and probably didn't have a tooth in his head. In his letter to the Romans, Paul says Abram was "as good as dead." And yet on whom did God settle the responsibility for building a whole universe of faith? None other than Abraham, father of many nations.
In a riveting interview last week with Terry Gross, Donovan Campbell, who commanded a Marine platoon in Iraq in 2004, said the only way he could do his job was decide that he was already dead, a mind trick that freed him to make effective and indeed moral choices in the most chaotic, amoral environment possible. By the same token, Jesus counsels his followers to accept the inevitability of his death so his (and our) triumph over it (and over all deathly things, including dread) could be revealed.
We're all as good as dead. And yet God wants us to feel safe, free, and bracingly alive. Check out Campbell's book, Joker One. My Sunday sermon is here.