by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
Last month, our church celebrated the 100th birthday of our own Al Rohlfing, with Felma Wiley close behind at 95. In an era when disco is ancient history and last year’s fashions are out of date, their combined 195 years of living is a remarkable feat. They have each lived through a century—or nearly so—of history: They’ve seen changes in music and entertainment from Charleston to the Twist, Big Bands to the Beatles to Be-Bop, Flappers to Rappers, and silent movies to color television. They remember a time when “Titanic” wasn’t a movie. They’ve witnessed inventions from the Model T to the space shuttle. They’ve seen Charles Lindbergh and Neil Armstrong. They’ve lived through wars from the Great War through World War II, Korea, the “Cold War,” Vietnam, the Gulf War and beyond to today. They remember horrors from Pearl Harbor to September 11th. They’ve seen political changes like the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. They’ve seen the Great Depression, the New Deal, and “Reaganomics.” They’ve lived through eighteen U. S. Presidents, from Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) to George W. Bush (2001-). They’ve seen George Wallace and Martin Luther King, Jr., Segregation and Civil Rights. Each of them, Al and Felma, has witnessed changes that would stagger most of us.
John the Baptist also witnessed changes in his relatively brief 31 years or so. He saw his world change; he saw himself change from an ordinary young boy to a prophet of the stature of Elijah (Matt.17:10-13). But none of them was as staggering, as life changing, as the change that came over his earthly cousin, Jesus. John saw his cousin change from “cousin Jesus,” the boy he played with behind “uncle Joseph’s” carpenter shop, to “‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29b NIV). John lived from the end of the Old Covenant to the beginning of the New. I wonder if John had any inkling of the things that were to come. Did he know he was destined to be a prophet? Certainly, John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, knew he was “special” (Luke 1:11-17). But I wonder if they knew just how special he would become.
Jesus knew something of his destiny at least from the age of twelve (Luke 2:41-52). When his earthly parents found him in the temple, talking with the teachers, he asked Mary, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49b NIV). And of course, Mary had some idea how extraordinary Jesus was as well (Luke 1:26-56).
Al Rohlfing and Felma Wiley had no idea when they were younger that they would live to approach—and reach—a century. They had no idea what life held for them. But each of them has known for many years that God was with them on their journey. I had no idea when I started writing “Person-2-Person” that I would still be writing it after six years. I had no idea when I met my wife, Charlotte, that we would be married some day. I know she certainly had no idea either. Perhaps things have been different for you; perhaps you have always known what job you would have, where you would live, whom you would marry. But there are still mysteries; there are still unknowns in your future, just as there are in mine. One thing is certain: Jesus has promised to be with us until the end (Matt. 28:20b).
Someone you know is facing an uncertain future. Someone you know is facing tomorrow without Jesus. You can show them the way. You can show them the word of God that is “. . . a light for my path.” (Psa. 109:105b NIV), and the one who is “‘. . . the way and the truth and the life.’” (John 14:6b NIV).
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’
“Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.’” (John 1:29-34 NIV.)
Copyright © 2002 by David Phelps