Can you see the future? Have you tried?

Published 12:10 pm Saturday, January 18, 2014

Throughout his life, we see Jesus celebrate one holiday more than any other. No, it was not Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Easter (that last one would have been a little premature). It was Passover. In fact, in the gospel of John, it appears as if Jesus celebrates it on three separate occasions.

The Passover is the celebration of the moment when God freed the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt thousands of years ago. For 400 years, they had been slaves. And for 400 years, they cried out for God to set them free. Finally, God sent a man named Moses to lead the people to freedom. In the book of Exodus, the Bible tells of how, through nine separate plagues, the Pharaoh, king of Egypt, refused to release the people. It wasn’t until God sent a plague that killed the first-born son of every family – “passing over” only the homes of those who placed the blood of a lamb on their doorposts – that Pharaoh finally submitted and liberated the Jewish people.

Once the people were free, God would eventually command them to remember this moment and celebrate it each year. The Passover would be a testament to God’s amazing power and everlasting faithfulness.

As time progressed, however, this celebration would take on new meaning. Not only would people recognize what God had done, they would eventually begin to hope for what God might still do.

You see, even though the Jewish people were freed from slavery in Egypt, they later found themselves under the rule of different nations: the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.  They were kicked out of their land, their temple was destroyed, and they desperately needed a savior.

So, each year, at the Passover meal, families would leave an empty seat at the table for the prophet Elijah, who it was believed would come to announce the arrival of the Messiah, the one who would save the people once again. This act of faith reflected their belief that God’s promises to save God’s people were not just stories of the past, but promises for the future. Indeed, Jewish families continue this celebration each year, even today.

One of the things I find so exciting about celebrations like Passover is that they require a person not just to reflect, and not just to look forward, but to do both. So often in our lives, we can get stuck in a pattern of only doing one or the other. Some of us spend all of our time looking backward, reminiscing of better days gone by. Others of us seem to only look ahead, wondering what is next on our agenda. But a truly balanced life does both.

At the start of each new year, I try to take time to look back on the past year: What was exciting? What was challenging? Where did I see God at work? Where did God put me to work?

But I also set aside time to apply those experiences to the future: What left me wanting? What left me hopeful? What did God begin? What has God yet to begin?

When we make such a practice part of our lives, we make certain not to overlook the important work God has already done, while also preparing for the work God still wants to do.

I’m excited this week because, on Sunday, that’s exactly what we’re going to do at Courtland United Methodist Church. After our worship service, we’re going to have a Vision Lunch. At this event, we’re going to treat everyone in the congregation to lunch while sharing with them the exciting things God has done over the past year or so, and informing them of the exciting plans we believe God has for the future. It will be a time where we can all celebrate how far God has brought us, while also hoping for all of the amazing things God has yet to do.

And the truth is we all need moments like these: as individuals, as families, as companies, as churches. So, may you spend time this week reflecting on the year gone by. May you celebrate all of the amazing things God did in your life. And may you look forward to what God still has yet to do in you and through you in the year to come.

Brandon Robbins is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or