“I’ve got bad news for you,” the dentist mumbled underneath his plastic face-guard that always looks strangely like the riot helmet of a police officer in Oakland.  

“You’ve got deep pockets.”

(Honest to God… he said I have “deep pockets.”)

 And this is where the initial panic sets in because clearly he’s marked me as someone with a lot of money to spend.   How wrong he is though! Money is tight for us – even ridiculously so. But for some reason he seems to believe this guy in his examination chair with his mouth wide open is ridiculously wealthy. 

“Deep pockets?” I ask while trying to shrug, “What makes you think that?”

He sighs… obviously weary of this joke someone else knowingly has made. “It’s not a financial comment. It’s about the depth of the gaps between your gums and teeth. You’ve got deep pockets there that allow bacteria to settle in. You need oral surgery to remove some of the gums and clean underneath them.”

(This is the moment where the panic runs wild. Few things may strike more fear into my heart and soul than the words “ORAL SURGERY.” Especially coming from this sighing dental professional behind his protective plastic face mask as though he can’t even bring himself to breathe the same air as me.) 

“Really?” I ask while doing my best to not immediately flee the premises. “Yes,” he answers curtly while putting his instruments of fear away. “I’m scheduling you for two weeks from today.”

And so, for the next two weeks I was a captive… a captive of the future. The impending date of my oral surgery loomed over me at every turn. I’d wake up in the morning with a sense of joy at receiving the blessed sacrament of coffee, and only in a moment to have it snatched away by the returning memory that I was going to have an operation on my mouth. The present moment and circumstance seemed to always mean nothing-for two weeks it was only the weight of the future that demanded all of my attention. In some very real way, that which had not yet happened claimed a position of greater certainty than even the very moment in which I lived. The future held me captive until the day it was done.

But as we will see in this week’s Scripture passage and story , the hold the future has on us is by no means required to be one of fear and dread. In the story of Simeon and Anna, we hear the story of how they waited on the birth of the Messiah and lived every day in certainty of his arrival. It did not matter to them that he did not arrive that day or the many days before, but each and every day they returned to the certainty of their future hope. They lived in certainty of that which had not happened yet. They allowed themselves to be captives to it.  

It is not hard to think that we may be living in times when we have lost our certainty of the future and coming kingdom of God. Paris, San Bernardino, the list goes on and on… as each present moment seems to threaten hope. But this week I will ask you to see the life of those who waited in certainty of hope. Because if the future can hold us captive in fear with such power… is it not true that it may hold us captive to hope with even greater strength? Let us gather again to hear the story of those who found this to be true as we hear the lives of a man and woman who lived in the certainty of the future, more than in the appearances of the present. We’ll see you on Sunday as we continue to talk about what it means to live in the space between present and future hope.

Rev Brent Ross grew up loving the Twilight Zone and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. For better or worse both of these things enter into writing his sermons every week.