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The Rev. Benjamin Pratt The Rev. Benjamin Pratt
Dr. Pratt is a retired United Methodist pastor and pastoral counselor. He was the founding pastor of a congregation that remains, after 48 years, one of the most racially integrated of the Virginia Annual Conference. Then, for thirty years he was a pastoral counselor on Capitol Hill and in the City of Fairfax.

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United Methodist Church


AIGLATSON

April 17, 2012

My wife is addicted to Words With Friends, a Scrabble-style game for smartphones that permits scores for words that, at first glance, appear plucked from a fictional dictionary: qophs, qanat, usque, suqs, hm, xi, xu.

"Let me hear it in a sentence," I say.

She smiles, "I'm concentrating-don't quack me."

I once entitled a sermon with the made-up word, 'aiglatson' which is 'nostalgia' spelled backward. I was reminded of it a few weeks ago when I received a letter from a former parishioner who recalled that sermon in his letter. I had neither seen nor talked with Harry in more than forty years. His note was one of those warm, thoughtful, grateful, how-could-we-have-lost-touch-for-so-long letters. He said, "I have so many, many fond memories of our good times together...of the inspiration you gave me...like the time you entitled one of your sermons "Aiglatson".

How nostalgically sweet it is to be remembered so well after four decades! Nostalgia is the pull of the past. Aiglatson is the pull of the future.

The rest of his story is a beautiful irony and testament to our faith. One of the last conversations I had with Harry was about his feeling trapped in a job he no longer valued. He was struggling but slogging through his time until early retirement. His letter told me of his faith journey after retirement as he was pulled into the future. He immediately went to seminary and served twenty years as a pastor while deepening his scholarship in Old Testament Studies. At 76 he is still being pulled into the future as a professor of Old Testament Studies. Aiglatson is the pull of the promise of the future.

Abraham is the father of our faith. At 75 years of age he dared the future by leaving home, yearning the promise of a new country, a new life, a new identity. He ventured forth in the faith that God would be with him as he journeyed a pilgrimage of the promise.

To this day, we are pulled into an unknown future with the hope that no matter where we find ourselves or what happens to us, God is in that "where" and that "what," working to heal, to forgive, to set free, to enable us to endure and overcome. Even failure and death are pregnant with the promise that we will be pulled into a future to which God is leading us.

In the unvarnished version of the resurrection story, Mark tells us in 16:7 that the white-robed figure in the empty tomb says to the trembling women, "Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee." The message to these fearful women is that Jesus will be on the road for each of them and us in the future.

We have faith in the future, not out of shallow optimism, but because we believe we are being pulled into God's future. Are our times more frightening than the world of Abraham or Jesus? I don't suspect so. Regardless, our times call us to venture forth with courage and hope. When we fear the future, we fondle the past with nostalgia.

"I am making all things new." Rev. 21:5. Aiglatson pulls us into God's future.

 

Benjamin Pratt

April, 2012

 

 


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