More Than Death and Taxes

Benjamin Franklin said that there are only two certain things in life: death and taxes. While it’s true that these things are certain, I disagree that the certainty of them is exclusive. I know of at least two others, which our Gospel points out to us today; we can also count on unexpected twists and turns in our lives and that God will be with us through them all.

Despite our own careful planning and preparations, our lives rarely work out just as we anticipate. Mine certainly hasn’t. How many of us began preparing for one career, and then find ourselves, years later, doing something completely different? I spent hours and hours in the undergraduate classes of accounting and business professors, certain that I would be an accountant. Obviously, the twists and turns of my studies brought me here, to a career in ministry, where the closest I get to accounting is managing my own budget for the church. No, God didn’t send me a heavenly messenger to advise me to consider the change. However, too many seemingly unconnected events led me here for me to believe that He didn’t have everything to do with the fact that my work looks nothing at all like what I’d planned.

I wonder whether John the Baptist imagined that his life would end up quite like it did. Like him, however, we can all be certain that no matter what we design our lives to be, it will take a detour or two or many. The unexpected can bring wondrous surprises, like the layoff you dreaded becomes the opportunity to have the dream job that’s a perfect fit, the surprise of a new family member, or a new friend who encourages you to try new things that you discover you have a great passion for.

These twists and turns may challenge us. Perhaps, like mine, your family looks very different from what you expected.  Perhaps you’ve experienced losses of loved ones, or your family is no longer together but separated by distance or differences that have driven you apart. For some, maybe you enjoyed being physically active and made plans to be so for a long time into your future, but unexpected changes in your health have made that impossible for a time or even forever. Possibly, you have grown accustomed to financial comfort, even abundance, and quite suddenly find that the bills are piling up and the balance in your checking account just won’t keep up.

In this Gospel, John illustrates that God has a plan for each one of us. We have our role in His Divine design.  Sometimes the ups and downs that jolt us out of our comfortable plans can be scary—even terrifying. The message of Jesus’s divine nature and the radical revelation of the magnitude of God’s desire to forgive us required great bravery. To say that John risked everything to obey God is an understatement.

When our own lives are twisted upside down and inside out, it can feel as if our world has come crashing down. We may feel sad, lonely, scared, or angry. Hopelessness may begin to creep in. We must not lose faith, because we can be confident of God’s constant loving presence. One of the most beautiful things about this passage is that it also reassures us that if we seek his mercy, it will be granted. Baptism is the outward sign of this great and merciful love. 

We are reminded that we should never lose hope or feel alone, because in any moment, especially in the most challenging moments, there is the One who is always there. God is everywhere and when we need Him, He will always be there to guide us, protect us, give us hope, provide for us, or even just listen to us when it feels that nobody else is. It is precisely when we feel our most broken and least worthy of forgiveness that He longs for our return to Him, through the Sacraments. Like John, we can acknowledge the power of our own baptism, because it was Jesus upon whom the Holy Spirit came down, and in Jesus we have also been washed clean.

Lisa Amos
Director of Mission and Ministry


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