Life, interrupted

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The timing of things is awfully important.

If Abraham Lincoln, a most untelegenic man by all accounts, would have run for president in 1960 instead of 1860, he could not have been elected president. His gaunt appearance, his high-pitched (according to at least one biographer) voice almost certainly would have disqualified him from being a candidate in the television age.

Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully convinced the news media -- mainly newspapers -- to conceal his physical condition in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, when every flaw is instantaneously communicated around the globe, FDR's status as a largely wheelchair-bound politician would probably have kept him from ascending to high office.

What a tragedy for the country if these two men had been born at the wrong time.

The Bible says that in the fullness of time, God sent his son into the world (Galatians 4:4). Thank heaven Jesus was born when he was.

I am imagining Jesus of Nazareth teaching on a hill at Capaha Park, perhaps looking down on a crowd gathered near the bandstand. Let's say his earthly ministry was now rather than two millennia ago. Cars are passing by on Broadway and Perryville Road, the sound of radios tuned to the Cardinals game or a music station blaring, as they advance to their destinations. Above him, as he speaks, a helicopter making its way to a hospital swoops down on final approach, rotors churning all the way.

In the crowd, children are listening to iPods, their ears stopped up from hearing anything other than the music they've selected. And nearly every person present has a cell phone. Some go off just as Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn ..." Others are on vibrate, and men and women excuse themselves and go off into a small grove of trees to see who has just called. Still others, with nimble fingers working madly, stand in place listening to the savior of the world while using the miracle of technology to post what they think of his words on Twitter or some other social media.

I'm the father of two teenaged daughters. I'm thankful for cell phones in this respect. I can keep track of my children. They know that in order to keep these hand-held devices, they must answer every time I call or text. On the other hand, the distractions they've brought into our lives, the thoughts they interrupt, and the precious moments they shatter exact a definitive price on our attention span.

Would anybody hear him if Jesus came now? Or would his words have been pushed aside in the noise and bustle of our lives? I'm persuaded the answers to the aforementioned questions would be "no" and "yes."

We should all be grateful that God sent Jesus to Earth before Facebook.

Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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